Incidence of common infectious diseases in Japan during the COVID-19 pandemic

PLoS One. 2022 Jan 12;17(1):e0261332. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0261332. eCollection 2022.


Recent reports indicate that respiratory infectious diseases were suppressed during the novel coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. COVID-19 led to behavioral changes aimed to control droplet transmission or contact transmission. In this study, we examined the incidence of common infectious diseases in Japan during the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 data were extracted from the national data based on the National Epidemiological Surveillance of Infectious Diseases (NESID). Common infectious diseases were selected from notifiable infectious diseases under the NESID. The epidemic activity of the diseases during 2015-2020 was evaluated based on the Infectious Disease Weekly Reports published by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases. Each disease was then categorized according to the route of transmission. Many Japanese people had adopted hygienic activities, such as wearing masks and hand washing, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. We examined the correlation between the time-series of disease counts of common infectious diseases and COVID-19 over time using cross-correlation analysis. The weekly number of cases of measles, rotavirus, and several infections transmitted by droplet spread, was negatively correlated with the weekly number of cases of COVID-19 for up to 20 weeks in the past. According to the difference-in-differences analysis, the activity of influenza and rubella was significantly lower starting from the second week in 2020 than that in 2015-2019. Only legionellosis was more frequent throughout the year than in 2015-2019. Lower activity was also observed in some contact transmitted, airborne-transmitted, and fecal-oral transmitted diseases. However, carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, exanthema subitum, showed the same trend as that over the previous 5 years. In conclusion, our study shows that public health interventions for the COVID-19 pandemic may have effectively prevented the transmission of most droplet-transmitted diseases and those transmitted through other routes.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 / pathology*
  • COVID-19 / virology
  • Communicable Diseases / diagnosis
  • Communicable Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Influenza, Human / epidemiology
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Masks
  • Pandemics
  • Rubella / epidemiology
  • SARS-CoV-2 / isolation & purification

Grants and funding

The authors received no specific funding for this work.