In 2018, Japanese health officials battled three infectious disease outbreaks of note– the vaccine-preventable diseases of measles and rubella and the sexually transmitted infection, syphilis.


Image/Robert Herriman
Image/Robert Herriman

While Japan saw 282 measles cases total, an outbreak in Okinawa that started in March 2018 accounted for more than one-third of the total annual cases (101).

The outbreak began on Mar. 20, which has been linked to an imported case from Taiwan. It had spread to Aichi and Kanagawa prefectures and Tokyo.

The Okinawa outbreak was declared over in June 2018.

Japan has successfully eliminated endemic measles transmission and sustained this status since March 2015 through both high vaccination coverage and rapid detection of and response to every case of measles.


Due to health regulations in place from 1977 to 1995, which required only that junior high school girls be vaccinated for rubella, making men who are now between the ages of 30 and 60 vulnerable to infection, Japan saw a significant outbreak in 2018, particularly in men in this age group.

Through Dec. 30, the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Tokyo reported 2,917 rubella, or German measles cases.

Tokyo saw 945 cases, followed by Kanagawa (402) and Chiba prefectures (383).

10 Most Important Infectious Disease Stories of 2018: Outbreak News Today


Japan saw a dramatic syphilis outbreak in 2018. With nearly 7,000 cases reported as of Dec. 30 (6,923), this is the most cases reported in the country in decades.

1,759 cases were reported in Tokyo and Osaka saw 1,186 cases in 2018.

This was even an increase on 2017’s numbers, 5,534 syphilis cases, the first time that happened in more than 4 decades.

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