FUKUSHIMA Lives on the Line

278accident for 1,080 youth in Fukushima Prefecture. The highest radiation reading was measured at 0.1 μSv/hour, while 99% children showed 0.04 μSv or lower internal thyroid irradiation. These results indicate no potential for increases in thyroid cancer. Nevertheless, as of October 2011, thyroid ultrasound examinations have been conducted for an additional 360,000 children to ascertain the current condition of their thyroids and implement long-term health management.[Interim progress]As of the end of February 2012, approximately 25,000 people in the evacuation zones, which is 80% of those in all zones, have been tested. The results showed the majority to be without issues, although some did exhibit slight lumps (nodular lesions) or cysts. Approximately 0.6% of these individuals required detailed follow-up examinations (precision ultrasound examinations, blood and urine tests, and biopsies where appropriate). The database that is being built up and the standardization and improvements in the precision of the examinations over the next several years will be extremely vital for setting the foundation of future health management and a baseline for the current prevalence of disease.2. Health CheckupsThe battery of tests for the health checkups is conducted to assess the effects of radiation and the health conditions of participants of all ages. Furthermore, it will help achieve early-stage detection and treatment of lifestyle and other illnesses. The content of the examinations differs depending on the examinee’s age, although the tests included in “specified medical checkups” (e.g., height and weight measurements and blood tests) are the ones typically administered. Currently, the health examinations are targeting residents of the evacuation zones; however, plans are in progress to expand them to those in need of these examinations, judging from their responses in the basic survey, and those outside the prefecture.3. Mental Health and Lifestyle SurveysChanges to mental and physical health were indicated as the long-term effects of Chernobyl. Psychological stress is also anticipated for residents coping with challenges such as life in the evacuation shelters and anxiety toward radiation. To assess the psychological health and lifestyle conditions of residents and provide them with appropriate care, Mental Health and Lifestyle Surveys were conducted. Residents of the evacuation zones and individuals deemed in need from their response to the basic survey (approximately 210,000 people) were asked to respond to the following questionnaire items: current physical and mental condition, lifestyle (e.g., diet, sleep habits, tobacco use, alcohol use, and exercise), activities in the past half year, individual experience of the Great East Japan Earthquake, among others. Individuals who were considered in need of counseling and support are first given telephone consultations by a clinical psychologist or another member of the Mental Health Support Team. If the support team member receives questions regarding radiation and believes that more specialized attention is required, a physician or another member of the FMU Radiation Health Counseling Team responds and offers support accordingly. If a personal examination is warranted by the results of the health consultations, considerations are made as to whether a specialist should examine the individual.4. Survey of Expectant and Nursing MothersA Survey of Expectant and Nursing Mothers is being carried out with the objective of assessing the examinees’ health conditions, facilitating the long-term health management, giving peace of mind to those planning childbirth in Fukushima Prefecture, and improving obstetrics and perinatal care in the prefecture.The survey targeted women within the prefecture who received Maternal and Child Health Handbooks (approximately 16,000 people) from their local municipality and those who received them from municipalities outside the prefecture. Among these, women who were new or existing prefectural residents and who underwent pregnancy checkups or gave birth after March 11, 2011 were asked to respond to questions on the following: health and pregnancy checkups since the earthquake, physical condition during their pregnancy, childbirth, and mental well-being. Consultations on child rearing and similar concerns are offered to these women, either via phone or e-mail, by maternity nurses or public health nurses. These consultations, if deemed necessary based on the mothers’ responses to the survey, will be performed by FMU nurses. In addition, if physician assistance is rendered necessary, their existing obstetrician or an FMU physician may offer support. In certain cases, an FMU physician will be available to evacuees outside the prefecture.Special Report from Fukushima on the Great East Japan Earthquake: Hope in the Midst of Adversity, Part 3