Recently WHO confirmed the elimination of the highly contagious viral infection Rubella (German Measles) from Australia, Macao SAR (China) and Brunei Darssalam (small island nation which gained independence from Britain in 1984), with elimination defined as “reduction to zero of the incidence of infection caused by a specific agent in a defined geographical area.”
Though Rubella in adults typically results only in rash, fever, swollen glands, sore head and runny nose, in pregnant mothers (devoid of immunity) it can cause detrimental birth defects. As many as 9 out of 10 babies born from mothers who contracted Rubella during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy will have multiple birth defects. Additionally, German Measles can also cause miscarriage and numerous other issues for both mother and child; thus its elimination from the three countries is wondrous news.
The reason for the disease reduction can be traced to increased disease surveillance, increased immunization programs and laboratory capacity. This brings Australia, Brunei Darussalam and Macao SAR into the fold of , Hong Kong SAR (China), Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and Singapore, who have also eliminated the disease. However, these countries must remain vigilante, despite this good news, because there is always a chance of recursion. That being said, these regions have clearly set the standard for the elimination of rubella, a marker for the civilized nations of the world to look up to.
Statements on the anti-measles programs from the aforementioned countries are provided below:
“The elimination of rubella is a great day for public health in Australia and sends a powerful message that vaccination works. I commend the efforts of Australia’s health professionals over the decades and the millions of parents who ensure their children are always vaccinated. Our National Immunisation Program played an essential role in this huge achievement by ensuring high levels of vaccination coverage for rubella,” said the Hon. Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health, Australia.
“Following WHO certification of Brunei Darussalam’s measles-free status in 2015, we are very pleased to now be acknowledged for eliminating rubella. This is an achievement for the country and reflects our commitment to eliminating childhood infections and ensuring universal health coverage. High vaccination coverage and surveillance must be maintained to ensure prevention and early detection. Continuous vigilance, strong political commitment, concerted and collaborative efforts are also needed to eliminate childhood infections such as rubella in the region altogether,” said Dr Haji Md Isham bin Jaafar, Minister of Health, Brunei Darussalam .
“The Government of the Macao SAR (China) is very pleased to have been verified by the World Health Organization as having eliminated rubella. We are grateful to WHO for its support in this success, and we are committed to sustaining our rubella elimination status,” said Dr Lei Chin Ion, Director of the Health Bureau of Macao SAR (China) .