29 Matsumoto sarin gas attack victims still suffering


Kyodo/May 25, 1999

MATSUMOTO, Japan -- Nearly 30 survivors of the 1994 Matsumoto sarin nerve gas attack are still suffering from psychological disorders five years after the incident that killed seven people and injured 144, according to a survey released Tuesday.

The survey on the health condition of people gassed in the attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, indicated that 29 people are believed to be still suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) and five of them are in need of treatment.

PTSD involves a psychological reaction that occurs after a highly stressing event and is often characterized by symptoms such as depression, anxiety, flashbacks and recurring nightmares.

The figure has gone down from the 88 who complained of such disorders in the first survey taken immediately after the June 1994 gassing in the central Japan city.

Of the 175 who responded in the seventh survey that covered 387 people between February and March, 29 showed symptoms of PTSD, including having headaches and difficulty going to sleep, or feeling sick when watching TV programs about the Matsumoto gassing. Only four have been diagnosed as having PTSD, however.

A group of local doctors has been conducting the surveys following the gas attack, for which members of the AUM Shinrikyo religious cult have been indicted.

"Most people's conditions are not serious, but I think five people, including the four who have been diagnosed as suffering from PTSD, need to be treated," said Yoshiki Sekijima, a doctor who was involved in the survey.

The group plans to provide treatment, including counseling, to the survivors at Shinshu University hospital in Matsumoto.

In a similar government survey on the March 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, more than half of the approximately 1,200 respondents said they are still suffering from physical and psychological disorders.

AUM Shinrikyo members have also been indicted for the Tokyo gassing, which left 12 people dead and more than 5,000 injured.

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