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Geographical structures and the cholera epidemic in modern Japan: Fukushima prefecture in 1882 and 1895

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Author(s): Kuo Chun-Lin | Fukui Hiromichi

Journal: International Journal of Health Geographics
ISSN 1476-072X

Volume: 6;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 25;
Date: 2007;
Original page

ABSTRACT
Abstract Background Disease diffusion patterns can provide clues for understanding geographical change. Fukushima, a rural prefecture in northeast Japan, was chosen for a case study of the late nineteenth century cholera epidemic that occurred in that country. Two volumes of Cholera Ryu-ko Kiji (Cholera Epidemic Report), published by the prefectural government in 1882 and 1895, provide valuable records for analyzing and modelling diffusion. Text descriptions and numerical evidence culled from the reports were incorporated into a temporal-spatial study framework using geographic information system (GIS) and geo-statistical techniques. Results Changes in diffusion patterns between 1882 and 1895 reflect improvements in the Fukushima transportation system and growth in social-economic networks. The data reveal different diffusion systems in separate regions in which residents of Fukushima and neighboring prefectures interacted. Our model also shows that an area in the prefecture's northern interior was dominated by a mix of diffusion processes (contagious and hierarchical), that the southern coastal region was affected by a contagious process, and that other infected areas experienced relocation diffusion. Conclusion In addition to enhancing our understanding of epidemics, the spatial-temporal patterns of cholera diffusion offer opportunities for studying regional change in modern Japan. By highlighting the dynamics of regional reorganization, our findings can be used to better understand the formation of an urban hierarchy in late nineteenth century Japan.
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