Tokyo police officers and hospital workers contracted tuberculosis after coming into contact with a male detainee who died from the disease in February 2015, though the case was not reported to health authorities until January of this year, police sources said.
Nineteen police officers at Shibuya Police Station and seven hospital workers contracted the disease, the sources said Monday.
Of them, six people have developed symptoms of the disease and are taking medication. Another six are taking medication, though they have not exhibited symptoms. So far, the disease has not spread to other detainees or to the public, the sources said.
The seven doctors and nurses with TB work at a university hospital in Tokyo. They apparently contracted the disease after they performed an autopsy on the detainee, who was in his 60s when he died from lung tuberculosis. None of the hospital staff have developed TB symptoms.
Under the Infectious Diseases Control Law, doctors are obliged to report tuberculosis cases to their local health center.
The police officers who developed the disease were either in charge of the detention center or witnessed the autopsy. They range in age from their 20s to their 60s. One police officer was confirmed Monday to have contracted TB, raising worries that it could spread further.
“Our knowledge of tuberculosis has been lacking,” a senior police officer at Shibuya Police Station said.
The police station will check its roughly 80 officers for TB.
According to the police, the male detainee was arrested in January 2015 for failing to pay his bill at a restaurant. A doctor conducted a medical checkup on him the following month, which he passed.
Police sources said he died a few days later after reportedly feeling sick.
Doctors performed an autopsy and suspected that pneumonia was the cause of death.
But when the hospital conducted follow-up tests, it compiled and submitted a report to the Metropolitan Police Department to the effect that the cause of death was lung tuberculosis.
Asked why the hospital failed to report the case to the local health center, officials there cited the law on autopsies, which states that the police are obliged to report cases the to relevant organizations.