America’s first region to eliminate Rubella

POSTED: 05/7/15 11:45 AM

St. Maarten – Acting Minister of Public Health Rita Bourne-Gumbs says she is pleased that the Americas region which also includes the Caribbean is declared the world’s first to eliminate rubella. Rubella is a contagious viral disease that can cause multiple birth defects as well as fetal death when contracted by women during pregnancy.

This historic achievement follows a similar first against smallpox in 1971 and polio in 1994. “Vaccinations benefit families.  It is very important to get children vaccinated so they can grow up healthy and strong.  The elimination of rubella is a victory for women and children as the disease is detrimental to both. “Parents and guardians should always check their child’s vaccination status to make sure they are up to date.  Youth Health Care will be organizing an Open House activity on Saturday, 16th of May at the Vineyard Office Complex in Philipsburg.  This is an opportunity for parents and guardians to make use of,” Acting Minister of Public Health Rita Bourne-Gumbs said on Tuesday.

The achievement of removing rubella from the region started 15-years ago under the national efforts of Governments administering the vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) throughout the Western Hemisphere. The declaration of elimination, made by an international expert committee during a meeting at the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) recently, makes rubella and congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) the third and fourth vaccine-preventable diseases to be eliminated from the Americas. Rubella, also known as German measles, caused widespread outbreaks throughout the Americas before the introduction of the MMR vaccine. Although the virus usually causes mild or asymptomatic infections in children and adults, when contracted by women early in pregnancy, it can cause miscarriage or CRS, a constellation of birth defects that often includes blindness, deafness, and congenital heart defects.

Before mass-scale rubella vaccination, an estimated 16,000 to more than 20,000 children were born with CRS each year in Latin America and the Caribbean, while more than 158,000 rubella cases were reported in 1997 alone. In the United States, 20,000 infants were born with CRS during the last major rubella outbreak (1964-65).

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