Ireland Reports 1st Rubella Case in a Decade

Rubella cases in Ireland are very rare

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An individual with a confirmed rubella infection was reported to Ireland’s Department of Public Health HSE South in February 2020.

According to the EPI newsletter statement on March 9, 2020, this person was unknowingly exposed to rubella while traveling overseas and became ill on return to Ireland.

At the time of publication, no additional rubella cases associated with the confirmed case have been identified but increased surveillance is in place to rapidly identify any cases should they occur.

Rubella is a highly contagious disease caused by the rubella virus. It can be spread from an infected person to other people in different ways, including direct contact and through the air, such as when an infected person coughs or sneezes, says this notice.

This is the 1st case of confirmed rubella in Ireland since 2009 and the first since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Ireland had succeeded in eliminating rubella in 2015. 

In the last WHO rubella elimination study published in October 2019, it was estimated that 69 percent of infants were protected against rubella worldwide. 

Ireland reports 91% of infants have received two doses of the MMR vaccine which is less than the target threshold of 95% for both doses.

However, rubella continues to occur in many parts of the world and the risk of importation into Ireland, and the possibility of transmission within Ireland, will continue until such time as rubella is eliminated worldwide.

Dr. Augustine Pereira, Director of Public Health, HSE South advised that the best protection from rubella is vaccination, which is provided free of charge in Ireland.

Through the implementation of rubella vaccination strategies in Ireland since 1971, the incidence of rubella has been substantially reduced.

The Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccination is the most common way to prevent rubella and is provided as part of the national immunization program in Ireland, the USA, and many other countries.

Another country struggling to eliminate an ongoing rubella epidemic is Japan.

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International travelers visiting Japan are advised by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ensure they are fully protected against rubella before arriving in Japan.

The CDC issued an updated Level 2 Travel Alert for Japan on January 3, 2020, says ‘there is an ongoing outbreak of rubella, which is a contagious disease caused by a virus.’

As of December 2019, Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases reported over 2,200 rubella cases, with Japan’s capital city of Tokyo reporting the most rubella cases, 854 during 2019.

For the majority of people, rubella, also known as German measles, is a mild infection, causing little more than a mild fever and a rash. 

However, rubella is a very dangerous disease for pregnant women and developing babies.

This updated ‘Practice Enhanced Precaution’ Travel Alert says ‘pregnant women who are not protected against rubella should not travel to Japan during this outbreak.’

Check your rubella immunity at UltaLabs  < 

Additionally, the CDC suggests various vaccinations prior to visiting Ireland, which can be found on this webpage. 

In the USA, there are 2 approved rubella vaccines, MMR II-Rubella and ProQuad. Both vaccines are available at most pharmacies.

Ireland’s travel vaccine news is published by Vax-Before-Travel.