No Need to Panic, Authorities Say, Emphasize Importance of Hygiene Measures to Prevent Infection

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No Need to Panic, Authorities Say, Emphasize Importance of Hygiene Measures to Prevent Infection

No Need to Panic, Authorities Say

Health authorities in Japan are urging travelers not to cancel their trips despite a recent surge in cases of streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS), a rare but potentially fatal "flesh-eating disease." While the number of infections is concerning, officials emphasize that there is no need for panic and that simple hygiene measures can effectively prevent the spread of the disease.

The recent increase in STSS cases has sparked concerns among potential travelers, particularly after reports in European media labeled it a "dangerous infectious disease." This led to North Korea's cancellation of the Asian qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup soccer tournament, citing the need to prevent the spread of the disease from Japan.

However, authorities point out that the World Health Organization (WHO) did not recommend travel restrictions to Europe in 2022 when a similar surge in STSS cases occurred there. They emphasize that basic hygiene practices, such as hand washing, wearing a face mask, and keeping wounds clean, are highly effective in preventing infection.

STSS is a severe form of infection caused by the bacterium streptococcus pyogenes, which commonly causes strep throat in children. Cases tend to rise during the spring months, particularly around the start of the new school year. The disease can rapidly cause muscle tissue necrosis and multiple organ failure, primarily affecting individuals in their 30s and older. Sadly, approximately 30% of STSS cases result in death due to the rapid worsening of symptoms.

According to preliminary figures from the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Japan recorded a record 941 cases of STSS in 2023. As of March 24, 2024, 556 cases have already been reported nationwide. The latter half of 2023 saw a rise in patients infected with a highly contagious variant of the pathogen circulating in Europe and the United States, primarily in the Kanto region.

While the increase in STSS cases is concerning, authorities urge travelers to remain calm and implement basic hygiene measures to protect themselves. There is no need to cancel travel plans to Japan, as simple precautions can significantly reduce the risk of infection.