Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Rubella Virus Eliminated from the Americas

Big news came out today regarding the state of the rubella virus: the Pan American Health Organization (alongside the CDC, UNICEF, and the United Nations Foundation) has now officially declared rubella eliminated from the Americas - the first WHO region in the world to have done so. Although the last endemic case occurred in 2009 in Argentina, the announcement was delayed to ensure that the virus was in fact eliminated since the virus can sometimes persist without being clinically apparent.

Rubella, otherwise known as German measles, is a disease associated with fetal death and congenital defects, including congenital heart failure.  In normal, healthy adults rubella rarely gives rise to serious complications; symptoms generally include a rash and fever.  However for mothers and their fetuses, the disease can be deadly.  To give some perspective, in the United States from 1964-1965, 11,000 fetuses died from factors related to maternal rubella infection, and 20,000 newborns were born with defects.

Rubella is primarily prevented through the administration of the MMRV vaccine, a vaccine that protects against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella zoster (chicken pox).  While experts are optimistic about eliminating the virus in several WHO regions, including the Europe region, eradication of rubella from the world is still a long ways away, as the virus is expected to persist in other regions for some time.

--Andrew Duong

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