Availability of SARS information in Japan

Sir-According to the Japanese government, there have been no confirmed cases of SARS in spring, 2003. However, four probable cases of SARS were reported on WHO's web pages between April and June, 2003. The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare did not disseminate this information widely enough to help efforts to prevent secondary transmission. They made an original case definition of confirmed SARS cases. Although a few patients had symptoms compatible with WHO's case definition of SARS, the Japanese public were not informed. Although the Japanese government might not have intended to cover up these cases of SARS, their action did not support community preventive strategies.
Local health centres tried to prepare for SARS, but did not have adequate information about patients with the disease in Japan. Information about cases of SARS needs to be reported accurately and disseminated in a timely way to help limit the spread of the disease. Inadequate reporting and lack of information may propagate public myths and cause further transmission of the disease.1 Fortunately, local transmission of SARS was not observed in Japan this spring. Nevertheless, Japanese health authorities must report and disseminate accurate information promptly to alleviate the public's fears and to prevent secondary and tertiary transmission of the disease.
*Akira Ehara, Tatsuhito Tono-oka
Otaru Municipal Health Center, Otaru, Hokkaido, 047-0033, Japan
(e-mail: akira.ehara@nifty.com)
1 Abdullah ASM, Tomlinson B, Cockram CS, Thomas GN. Lessons from the severe respiratory syndrome outbreak in Hong Kong. http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/vol9no9/03-0366.htm (accessed Oct 22, 2003),