Rubella, also called “German Measles,” and Congential Rubella Syndrome have been eliminated North America, Central America and South America, according to the Pan American Health Organization. Eradication has been a long time coming, as the Rubella vaccine was licensed in 1969, is deemed 95% effective but more than 40 years elapsed before the Americas were completely rid of Rubella.
German Measles causes slight discomfort to children and adults but severe birth defects and fetal mortality during early pregnancy. Before widespread vaccination, it affected 15,000 – 20,000 people/year in the Americas and 120,000/year worldwide.
The ways in which diseases are battled and overcome worldwide bears some explanation. The World Health Organization (WHO) divides the world into six regions: the Americas; Europe; Southeast Asia; Africa; Eastern Mediterranean; and Western Pacific. Typically, a disease is first eliminated in North America through vaccinations; then use of the serum spreads relatively rapidly through Central and South Americas. When 3 years have elapsed in a region with no reports of endemic cases, the disease is deemed eradicated from that region.
Within a decade of a disease’s elimination in the Americas, it is usually stamped out in some or all of the other regions, provided they make a priority of eradicating the disease. This is basically the way in which the diseases of measles and polio were eradicated (though there is clearly a setback regarding measles due to the 2015 outbreak in California).
At this point, only the Americas and Europe have made Rubella’s eradication a priority. Europe is expected to wipe out Rubella by the end of 2015. Health experts are calling for commitments by the other 4 regions for Rubella’s eradication. They are working toward eradication of Rubella in the Southeast Asia region by 2020. The other 3 regions of Africa, Eastern Mediterranean and Western Pacific will probably be more difficult; consequently, Rubella’s eradication in those areas is expected in 2020 at the earliest.
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