167 cases have been reported this year
Photo: AFP Japan is battling its worst measles outbreak in a decade. As of February 19, 167 people have been diagnosed with measles. According to the Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese news outlet, patients were reported in 20 of the nation's 47 prefectures. Mie Prefecture recorded the highest number of patients with 49, followed by Osaka with 47 and Aichi with 17. Tokyo was fourth with 11 cases. Health experts are calling on the public to get vaccinated against measles, an airborne virus that spreads even through sneezing and coughing. In a rare step to help contain the spread of the disease, some local authorities alerted the public of the transportation routes taken by patients. Related: Two dead from measles in Faisalabad Many of the cases involved people returning from overseas having contracted the disease abroad. Across the world reports of measles cases are rising and authorities fear the disease may spread with the massive amount of people expected to visit Japan for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Reports indicated that the large number of cases in Mie can be traced to a religious organization called Kyusei Shinkyo, after a number of people were found to have contracted measles after attending a workshop held by the group in the city of Tsu late last year. According to its website, the group, founded in 1970, believes that “medicine can cause disease” and believes in treating illnesses through what it calls “the Divine Light.” Follow SAMAA English on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.