Rubella Outbreak In Japan Raises Concerns, Travel Alerts Issued
"Pregnant women who are not protected against rubella through either vaccination or previous rubella infection should not travel to Japan during this outbreak."
There is a rubella outbreak in Japan, which has affected at least 1,884 people so far.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US has already issued a travel alert for those travelling to Japan. Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection has also stressed that children under one should not visit Japan, as their immunities are still low.
The latest figures were reported by Japan Times on 19 November 2018, and were from the National Institute of Infectious Diseases. Apparently, the spread of the disease is mainly because many men in their 30s and older in Japan were still unvaccinated.
According to the CDC, “Most cases continue to be reported in the Kanto region (Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, and Saitama).”
“Travellers to Japan should make sure they are vaccinated against rubella with the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine before travel.”
Rubella can have serious consequences in pregnant women and their developing babies. Rubella infection during pregnancy (especially during the first trimester) can result in abnormal development of the foetus, miscarriage and premature delivery.
Both the CDC and Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection has advised that, “Pregnant women who are not protected against rubella through either vaccination or previous rubella infection should not travel to Japan during this outbreak.”
Rubella, also called German measles or three-day measles, is a contagious viral infection best known by its distinctive red rash.
The signs and symptoms of rubella are often so mild they’re difficult to notice, especially in children. However the infection can be serious when it occurs in pregnant women, especially in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Symptoms of rubella occur between two and three weeks after exposure to the virus. They typically last about one to five days and may include:
- Mild fever of 102 F (38.9 C) or lower
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Inflamed, red eyes
- Enlarged, tender lymph nodes at the base of the skull, the back of the neck and behind the ears
- A fine, pink rash that begins on the face and quickly spreads to the trunk and then the arms and legs, before disappearing in the same sequence
- Aching joints, especially in young women
How Rubella spreads
Rubella is a contagious illness which can spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can also spread by direct contact with an infected person’s respiratory secretions, such as mucus. It can also be transmitted from pregnant women to their unborn children via the bloodstream.
A person with rubella is contagious for one to two weeks before the onset of the rash until about one or two weeks after the rash disappears. An infected person can spread the illness before the person realises he or she has it.
In Singapore, two doses of the MMR vaccine are recommended for children. MMR vaccine is part of Singapore National Childhood Immunisation Programme (NCIP). The first dose is recommended at 12 months of age and the second dose at 15-18 months of age.
Do note that, if your baby’s caregivers have never received the MMR vaccine, if infected, they can transmit rubella to an infant who has not yet been protected by the vaccine. Hence make sure that the caregivers are vaccinated too.
MMR vaccine is a live virus vaccine and should not be taken by women during pregnancy.