Measles and mumps have both been top news items lately with headlines talking about outbreaks across North America. According to the Centers for Disease Control in the United States and multiple other organizations, the best way of preventing these diseases is through vaccination, typically with an MMR shot. This shot protects against measles, mumps and rubella. Rubella is a similar disease that has gone generally unnoticed during the last few months of outbreak, so we aim to provide additional information about rubella here.
Rubella, sometimes called German measles, is a contagious disease that causes rash, fever, aching joints, and sometimes much more serious complications as well. The disease is perhaps most perilous for pregnant mothers and their unborn children who can develop serious complications if they contract the disease.
The CDC has stated that vaccinating pregnant mothers is, sadly, not an option when it comes to the MMR vaccine. Therefore, it is best to receive the vaccination before pregnancy, preferably at a younger age, and the CDC suggests the MMR vaccine be first given to people aged four to six-years.
Even though rubella is not as well known as the other two diseases included in the MMR vaccine, it still causes many problems. There is a shining light when it comes to the disease, however, and that is that it is easier to stop, and even possibly easier to eradicate, than measles or mumps. One of the main reasons for this is the disease rate of spread for rubella is but a third of that of measles. With such a low rate, preventative measures like vaccination make rubella much easier to contain.
Despite the relative ease of vaccination, vaccination rates against rubella are still lower than hoped for in some locations. Europe, for example, initially set a goal of measles elimination by 2010; now, in 2015, that goal has still not been reached.
While a part of the reason for unmet goals is a lack of vaccination, there are, according to the World Health Organization, other social and political factors that have contributed to a lack of immunity. In fact, since 2011, rubella cases have been on the rise in Europe. Notably, Europe is the only global region to experience a significant increase in cases since 2008.
The WHO reports vaccine preventable outbreaks for not only rubella, but also measles and mumps, in many parts of Europe, making the MMR vaccination even more important for travelers. Sadly, although vaccination offers protection to visitors, the lack of vaccination in Europe makes eliminating the disease nearly impossible.
If you plan on traveling to a region where rubella is endemic, it is recommended that you receive an MMR shot to protect you against the disease if you have not already received one.
For more information on rubella, see Passport Health’s MMR portal.
Do you think rubella can be eliminated without our lifetime? What can be done to help stop the disease? Comment below or on our Facebook page with your thoughts.