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information about Fukushima published in English in Japanese media info publiée en anglais dans la presse japonaise

Fukushima sleeps badly

March 5, 2012

Fukushima city sees more patients with insomnia, high blood pressure: survey

FUKUSHIMA -- The rate of insomnia and high blood pressure among people in this city had grown significantly in the first six months since the outbreak of the nuclear disaster in comparison to data from the previous year, a recently revealed survey shows.

The poll, conducted by a medical care cooperative, which operates several clinics in the capital city of Fukushima, shows that between March 11 and Aug. 31, 2011, patients in the city who were diagnosed with insomnia stood at 27 percent more than the same period in the preceding year, while those suffering from high blood pressure had correspondingly increased by 13 percent.

The cooperative obtained the results by analyzing data from a total of 4,551 patients who visited one of the institution's clinics in the city of Fukushima between March 11 and Aug. 31 last year, and compared it with those of the 4,434 patients who visited the clinic in the same period in 2010.

According to the findings, patients suffering from an inability to sleep had increased from a total of 292 in 2010 to 370 in 2011, while those diagnosed with high blood pressure had increased from 493 to 557 in the surveyed period. Furthermore, patients diagnosed with herpes zoster -- a type of skin rash, often associated with a weakened immune system, among other causes -- had increased by more than two times, from 19 to 50.

People diagnosed with hyperlipidemia -- excessive fat in the blood, which often occurs due to a lack of physical exercise -- had also increased by 7 percent, from 418 to 449.

According to officials from the cooperative, it is likely that fear of radiation and stress following the outbreak of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, have worsened health conditions among many residents.

Fukushima, a city located relatively far from the nuclear plant, was not among the areas that were most severely affected in the triple disasters. There were almost no damaged buildings in the city caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, and most of the city's residents were neither evacuated nor had to live in temporary housing units following the meltdowns at the nuclear power plant.

However, accumulated airborne radiation doses measured in the city's central Sugitsuma district after the outbreak of the nuclear disaster have stood at approximately 4 millisieverts since March 2011, a comparatively high level, putting the lives of residents at constant risk of insecurity and anxiety.

"In terms of herpes zoster anomalies, it is not clear whether the cause is related to the nuclear crisis or not. However, there is a possibility that the main cause behind the increase in such cases is the building up of anxieties among many people," an official with the cooperative said.

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