By Syndication Washington Post, Japan News-Yomiuri · No Author · WORLD, ASIA-PACIFIC
The panel chaired by Takaji Wakita, director general of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, said at a press conference that there was a possibility that young people who had developed only mild symptoms after being infected may unknowingly be contributing to the spread of the viral infection among elderly people and those with chronic diseases, who are susceptible to becoming seriously ill.
A health ministry task force on infection clusters assessed the situation in Hokkaido. As of Monday, 77 people had tested positive for the virus in Hokkaido, 75 of whom live in the prefecture, according to the local government. Hokkaido has seen the highest number of infections among the nation's 47 prefectures.
The government panel said that it believes a possible factor in the Hokkaido outbreak was young people who had been infected in urban areas unknowingly spreading the infection while traveling. Reports of infections of elderly people in Hokkaido have been increasingly emerging in various parts of the prefecture.
The panel said that people with mild symptoms have played a key role in the spread of the viral infection. It also pointed to the possibility that a cluster of infections is likely to develop when people have close contact in a closed indoor space for a certain period of time. The condition of patients who develop severe symptoms tends to worsen in about five to seven days after developing common cold symptoms, before the onset of pneumonia.
Based on the outbreak in Hokkaido, the panel called on members of the public to refrain from going out even if they only exhibit mild symptoms of coughing, a sore throat or a fever. It also urged people not to go to events or locations where individuals are in close proximity to one another or that are poorly ventilated, specifically mentioning concerts, karaoke rooms, clubs, buffets and large social gatherings.
According to the panel, there is a low risk of infection involved in outdoor activities, such as walking and jogging, and activities that do not require much contact with people, such as shopping or visiting museums.