Tag: rubella epidemic

When Was the Last Case of Rubella in the United States?

While we rarely hear about rubella anymore, like most other vaccine-preventable diseases, the last case of rubella in the United States was a lot more recent than you probably imagine.

Austin recently had its first case of rubella in twenty years.

Although endemic rubella and congenital rubella syndrome were declared eliminated in 2004, like measles, we still have cases each year.

When Was the Last Case of Rubella in the United States?

To be sure, rubella is far less common that it used to be.

Remember the rubella epidemics of the 1960s, when rubella caused 2,100 neonatal deaths and 20,000 infants to be born with congenital rubella syndrome?

If natural herd immunity really works, how do you explain congenital rubella syndrome in the pre-vaccine era and in countries that don't use the rubella vaccine?
If natural herd immunity really works, how do you explain congenital rubella syndrome in the pre-vaccine era and in countries that don’t use the rubella vaccine? Why doesn’t everyone get natural immunity when they are younger and rubella is milder, avoiding the chance of getting sick when they are pregnant?

How about the rubella outbreaks in the early 1990s, when rubella caused 13 deaths and 77 cases of congenital rubella syndrome?

“Rubella is a leading cause of vaccine-preventable birth defects. Although rubella virus infection usually causes a mild febrile rash illness in children and adults, infection during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester, can result in miscarriage, fetal death, stillbirth, or a constellation of birth defects known as congenital rubella syndrome (CRS).”

Grant et al on Progress Toward Rubella and Congenital Rubella Syndrome Control and Elimination — Worldwide, 2000–2018

One of our problems today is that most people don’t remember these epidemics and outbreaks, so they don’t understand how important it is for everyone to be vaccinated and protected.

They have no idea how fortunate they are that these diseases no longer make routine headlines.

But what happens if too many people skip or delay their vaccines?

Japan is still dealing with a large outbreak of rubella, with resulting cases of congenital rubella syndrome.

We will see more rubella and congenital rubella syndrome.

There were five cases of congenital rubella syndrome in the United States in 2017, all import related.
All five cases of congenital rubella syndrome in the United States in 2017 were import related.

While we do see some congenital rubella cases now, they are all women who were exposed to rubella outside the United States when they were pregnant.

“During 2001–2004, four CRS cases were reported to CDC; the mothers of three of the children were born outside the United States.”

Achievements in Public Health: Elimination of Rubella and Congenital Rubella Syndrome — United States, 1969–2004

Again, since the endemic spread of rubella was declared eliminated in 2004, cases since then are import related. People who aren’t immune get exposed to rubella when they are traveling to areas of the world where rubella is more common and return. Fortunately, since rubella isn’t as contagious as measles, these cases don’t usually cause big outbreaks.

So when was the last case of rubella and congenital rubella syndrome in the United States that wasn’t imported from outside the United States?

It was just before 2004.

Let’s get everyone vaccinated and protected before we see the next case.

More on Rubella and Congenital Rubella Syndrome

Did Pediatricians Ever Encourage Parents to Have Measles Parties?

While the idea of chickenpox and measles parties now seems ridiculous to most people, in the pre-vaccine era, it might not have been so strange. Since getting these diseases was inevitable, it might make some sense to try and control when your kids got sick. Did did pediatricians actually encourage parents to have measles parties?

Did Pediatricians Ever Encourage Parents to Have Measles Parties?

Some folks think they have evidence that they did!

This is not evidence for measles parties...
This is not evidence for measles parties…

Wait, did they really have measles?

As most folks know, German measles is another name for rubella or 3-day measles.
As most folks know, German measles is another name for rubella or 3-day measles.

Not exactly…

These kids had German measles – better known as rubella. Of course, that is not the same thing as measles or rubeola.

Measles vs Rubella

Why do we worry about rubella? Unlike measles, it’s not because it can make kids very sick, but rather because if a pregnant woman gets rubella, then it can be devastating for their baby.

The idea for rubella parties started in the UK in the 1950s.
The idea for rubella parties started in the UK in the 1950s.

That’s why some folks tried to get rubella when they were kids, well before they reached the age when they could become pregnant.

How did that strategy work out?

Many articles advocating for rubella parties (German measles) appeared in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Of course, those rubella parties didn’t prevent the rubella epidemics that came in 1964-65 and caused 12.5 million rubella virus infections and “resulted in 11,250 therapeutic or spontaneous abortions, 2,100 neonatal deaths, and 20,000 infants born with congenital rubella syndrome.”

In addition to spreading rubella to pregnant women, at these parties, younger children could get exposed to other diseases that are more serious, like measles.
In addition to spreading rubella to pregnant women, at these parties, younger children could get exposed to other diseases that are more serious, like measles.

It was the rubella vaccine that was developed in 1969 that helped control and eventually eliminate rubella and congenital rubella syndrome in the United States. And eliminated all of the risks of the measles parties that some folks used to have.

More on Measles Parties

Can Vaccines Cause Arthritis?

Many people think that vaccines can cause arthritis.

Vaccines and Arthritis

That’s not surprising, as there are many case reports associating vaccines and arthritis.

Arthritis is even listed as an adverse reaction in the package insert for the MMR vaccine.

While rubella vaccines can cause arthritis, so can a rubella infection.
While rubella vaccines can cause arthritis, so can a rubella infection.

And chronic arthritis is also listed as a table injury for vaccines containing the rubella virus.

Can Vaccines Cause Arthritis?

So that means that vaccines cause arthritis, right?

Actually, no, it doesn’t. At least not the type of arthritis that most people associate with the term arthritis.

Wait, what does that mean?

Vaccines do not cause juvenile arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, for example.

“Rubella-containing vaccines (e.g. MMR) can cause mild, acute, transient arthralgia or arthritis, rarely in children but very commonly in certain adult women (between 10-25% of adult female vaccinees without preexisting rubella immunity), usually beginning 1-3 weeks after vaccination and then persisting up to 3 weeks. Other vaccines currently routinely recommended to the general population in the U.S. have not been shown to cause chronic arthralgia or arthritis.”

Do Vaccines Cause Arthralgia or Arthritis?

While rubella-containing vaccines can cause arthritis, it is a mild type of arthritis that is usually temporary, lasting about two days.

“Postpubertal females should be informed of the frequent occurrence of generally self-limited arthralgia and/or arthritis beginning 2 to 4 weeks after vaccination.”

MMR-II Package Insert

It is also rare in children.

And it also occurs after a natural rubella infection. In fact, up to 70% of adult women with rubella develop arthralgia or arthritis.

Of course, arthritis isn’t the rubella complication that we worry about…

During the rubella epidemic in the United States just before the rubella vaccine was developed, there were 2,000 cases of encephalitis, 11,250 therapeutic or spontaneous abortions, 2,100 neonatal deaths, and 20,000 babies born with congenital rubella syndrome.

Vaccines for Arthritis

Except for temporary arthritis after the rubella vaccine, not only do vaccines not cause arthritis, it is recommended that people with chronic arthritis get vaccinated.

“Keeping up with your vaccinations is always a smart move, but getting immunized is especially important when you have an autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Both RA and the medicines you take to treat it can increase your risk for infections.”

RA & Vaccinations

And one day, we might even have therapeutic vaccines for arthritis!

Rheumavax completed a phase I clinical trial in Australia a few years ago. That led to the development of a new drug, DEN-181, that is now in phase 1 trials.

What to Know About Vaccines Causing Arthritis

Rubella containing vaccines can cause mild, temporary arthritis, but mostly in postpubertal females and less commonly than after a natural rubella infection.

More on Vaccines and Arthritis