TB is still a serious infectious disease in Japan … the number of new TB cases detected stood at 25,311 in 2007. Japan’s TB incidence — 19.8 cases per 100,000 people in 2007 — is the highest among developed countries. TB took the lives of 2,188 people in 2007.
TB is considered largely a “disease of the poor and the socially weak” with congested locations in urban areas like Internet cafes and cheap inns having been linked to the spread of TB. Young people with low-paying jobs and no fixed abodes, homeless people and people on welfare are at a higher risk of contracting TB. Historically, TB in Japan became rampant as industrialization proceeded during the Meiji Era and onward. The concentration of the population in urban areas, harsh labor conditions, bad nutrition, stress and unsanitary housing contributed to the spread of TB. However, with rising affluence, the average incidence of TB has decreased from 698 per 100 000 in 1951 to 33.7 per 100 000 in 1996.
Traditionally, Japan has had a policy of universal BCG vaccination of infants against tuberculosis since 1951 and BCG revaccinations have been given out in Japan among first grade primary and first grade junior high school students (children aged 6 and 12) for decades (although the cost-effectiveness of this program is being questioned).
According to Japan Times article Tuberculosis remains a threat, “it is imperative to enlighten people about TB at schools and in communities, and to train TB specialists”.