Rubella eliminated from the Americas

Apr 30, 2015, 7:48 AM EDT
A GlaxoSmithKline PLC Rotarix rotavirus oral vaccine, center, sits on a tray next to syringes in an exam room at a Community Clinic Inc. health center in Silver Spring, Maryland, U.S., on Wednesday, April 8, 2015.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rubella has horrific effects on unborn humans, but -- thanks to years of vaccinations -- the disease has been eradicated from the Americas. Decades ago it affected millions of people. The New York Times reports:

In a 1964-65 outbreak in the United States, 11,000 fetuses were miscarried, died in the womb or were therapeutically aborted, and 20,000 babies were born with defects.
“Although it has taken some 15 years, the fight against rubella has paid off,” said Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization, which made the announcement in conjunction with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Unicef and the United Nations Foundation. “Now, with rubella under our belt, we need to roll up our sleeves and finish the job of eliminating measles, as well.”
The Americas region is the first World Health Organization region to eliminate rubella. The European region — which includes Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia — hopes to follow next.
Up to 20,000 children were born with rubella in the Americas every year until mass vaccinations started.
But the last endemic cases registered in the region were in Argentina and Brazil in 2009.
The fact no new cases have been declared in five consecutive years, apart from those imported into the region, allowed global health chiefs to declare the Americas free of the virus.


Forbes also wrote:

While definitely a success, this milestone does not mean rubella is never a threat to babies born in the Americas.

Across the world, 120,000 children continue to be born with severe birth defects from the disease, including 43 cases of congenital rubella syndrome from among Japan’s 15,000 cases of rubella in 2013.

If a case is imported into an area of the U.S. with low immunization coverage, it could spark another outbreak.