Global Burden of Congenital Rubella Syndrome, 1996-2010

Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS) is a preventable cause of infant mortality and lifelong disability. Previous analyses concluded that approximately 110,000 (range: 14,000–308,000) children were born with CRS in 1996 in 78 (developing) countries which had not introduced rubella-containing vaccine (RCV) in their national programme. Updated estimates are important, given growing activity in controlling and eliminating rubella and CRS. By 2010, 130 countries had introduced RCV nationally, compared with 83 reporting use by 1996 and three of the six WHO regions had established rubella control/elimination and CRS prevention/ elimination goals.

While falling dramatically in the Americas, Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean after vaccination, the estimated CRS incidence remains high elsewhere. Read the full study here.

CDC issues rubella travel alerts for Japan and Poland

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued travel alerts for Japan and Poland following the increased number of reported rubella cases in both countries. The Level 2 alert cautions travelers to practice enhanced precaution, giving important information especially to susceptible pregnant women.

As of May 29, 2013, over 8,500 laboratory-confirmed rubella cases have been reported in Japan during 2013. And in Poland, more than 26,000 cases of rubella have been reported since the beginning of 2013.

CDC recommends that all travelers to Japan and Poland protect themselves from rubella by being up-to-date on their rubella vaccine. Pregnant women who are not protected against rubella either through vaccination or previous rubella infection should avoid traveling to Japan and Poland during this outbreak.  This is especially important during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. When rubella infection occurs during early pregnancy serious consequences—such as miscarriages, stillbirths, and severe birth defects in infants (Congenital rubella syndrome, CRS) can result. As many as 85 of 100 babies born to mothers who had rubella in the first 3 months of her pregnancy will have a birth defect. 

Measles, rubella and CRS are completely preventable through immunization with two safe, effective vaccines, which can be combined into one inexpensive measles-rubella or “MR” vaccine. The Measles & Rubella Initiative is supporting countries and regions to achieve measles and rubella control and elimination goals.

To read the alert in full please see here.