Monday, May 21, 2007

School's Out

Today it became painfully obvious that the measles vaccination is indeed a good idea.

After my first lesson of the day finished (3rd period Academic Writing) I was informed that the entire next week of classes had been cancelled. The students rejoiced, and I was left to figure out how I can stay on top of all of my grading over the next week or so.

The measles, from what I've heard, are only fun for those who don't come down with them. And it seems that MMR (measles, mumps, and rubeola) shots are not as common in Japan as one would expect. Measles outbreaks tend to occur only in developing countries these days, but there is a large population of individuals in Japan that is not immune to the virus, so Waseda University is officially off-limits (for most people) until next Wednesday at the earliest.
It was reported that Waseda has had 30 reported cases of the measles so far this spring. To put that number in perspective, in 2002 there were 44 cases reported nationwide in the United States.

The whole economy that revolves around the tens of thousands of students from Waseda University has been put on hold for at least seven days, and there's no guarantee that the one week break will stem an epidemic.

Since many students cannot change their work schedules at a part-time job on short notice, they are finding it difficult to fill their windfall of a vacation. Many "circles" (university clubs) are using the extra time off from school to do some extra drinking. The measles virus has an incubation period of between four and twelve days, so the drinking parties are probably not going to help the situation much.

To make matters more exciting, a friend of mine who works at a hospital here in Tokyo said that they are already out of measles shots. Nice nice!

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