A measles outbreak in southern Japan has forced a Hong Kong travel agent to cancel several trips it had planned to the area.

Nearly 70 people in the popular tourist destination of Okinawa have contracted the highly infectious disease, local government officials said.

In response, travel agent WWPKG has cancelled the plans of eight tour groups, who were supposed to leave for Japan between April 26 and May 19.

Some 150 travellers have been affected by the move, and all will be offered the opportunity to visit other destinations in Japan, or opt for a refund.

“We contacted travellers who signed up for tour groups to Okinawa … to arrange changing destinations to Kyushu, Osaka and other places. Travellers may also choose the full refund,” said WWPKG’s chief executive, Yuen Chun-ning.

The travel agent will monitor the outbreak to decide whether tour groups can return after May 19, Yuen added.

Three tour groups, led by travel agent EGL Holdings, are already in Okinawa and will continue their journey. 

On Monday, Alice Chan Cheung Lok-yee, executive director of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, said more information on the outbreak and its potential impact on tour groups was being gathered.

“I advise those who have signed up for package tours to discuss [the situation] directly with their travel agents,” Chan said.

According to the Okinawa Prefectural Government, the outbreak originated with a male traveller from Taipei, Taiwan.

The man, who is in his 30s, arrived in Okinawa on March 17 and had been sightseeing for two days, before the rash appeared. 

He tested positive for measles on March 20. 

The local government said the man reported having a fever before he travelled to the country.

The Hong Kong government’s Centre for Health Protection said it was closely monitoring the situation and urged travellers to remain vigilant, reiterating that vaccination was the most effective way of preventing the disease, which has a 21-day incubation period.

Potentially lethal to the young, parents are advised not to take children to areas known to have an outbreak of measles. Such is its virulence, children receive two doses of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella Vaccine at the age of one and six.

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