The deal will end the country's largest ever medical dispute, compensating a total of 430,000 people [EPA]

Nearly half a million Japanese Hepatitis B sufferers have agreed to settle a dispute with the state, at the cost of $39bn, the largest medical dispute in the country.

"This is a tough decision, but we decided to accept (the proposal) to end this issue swiftly," the plaintiffs said in a statement issued on Saturday.

A total of 430,000 people infected with the potentially fatal disease decades ago, will receive payments over a 30-year period.

The deal will end the country's largest ever medical dispute, compensating those who are thought to have been affected from repeated use of needles during a vaccination programme.

Largest medical dispute

The government says it may have to raise taxes to pay for the multi-billion dollar deal.

"We demand that the government learn from this lesson and do the best to solve this problem as soon as possible," Mieko Taniguchi, one of the plaintiffs said, adding that the court proposal was not enough to rescue everyone.

Earlier this month, the Sapporo district court proposed that the government pay $150,000 - $435,000 in damages to each hepatitis B patient depending on their health condition.

The court has also proposed that the government pay $6,000 each to virus carriers who do not show any symptoms yet.

A total 630 people have filed damages suits with 10 district courts across Japan, arguing that the government should be held responsible for the mass infections as it failed to take necessary measures.

Source: Agencies