Congenital rubella syndrome, a birth defect caused by the rubella virus (also known as German measles), has practically been eliminated in the U.S., according to a statement published in the April 2006 issue of Birth Defects Research Part A, the official journal of The Teratology Society.
Endorsed by the Teratology Society, the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS), the Neurobehavioral Teratology Society, and the Behavioral Toxicology Society, the statement notes that rubella is no longer an endemic disease in this country and congenital rubella syndrome “is almost a thing of the past in the United States.” Birth defects resulting from rubella may include blindness, deafness, and congenital heart disease. A rubella epidemic in the early 1960s caused more than 11,000 fetal deaths and 20,000 infants to be born with congenital rubella syndrome, but a more effective vaccine introduced in the 1970s has helped in eliminating transmission of rubella from expectant mothers to their unborn babies.
“Effectively, congenital rubella syndrome has been nearly eradicated from the United States,” according to the statement. There were fewer than 10 cases or rubella reported in the U.S. last year and in the past 5 years there have only been 4 cases of congenital rubella syndrome reported, only one of which was in a child whose mother had been born in the U.S.
The remarkable success of the immunization program to eliminate rubella is due to joint efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, various state and local health departments, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the March of Dimes, according to the statement. Maintaining high rubella immunization rates is crucial to the continued success of these efforts. The statement concludes: “Effective strategies, such as continued universal childhood and adolescent immunization, must be secured to extend this success worldwide.”
Revision date: July 5, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD