Korea has been certified by the World Health Organization as the first country in the Western Pacific region to eradicate rubella, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention질병관리본부 (KCDC) announced Wednesday.
Korea, along with New Zealand, has been recognized as the first regional country to fight rubella successfully, the centers said. The country, which also was certified to exterminate measles in 2014, has since been recognized as maintaining the level of elimination, demonstrating its excellent performance as a disease-controlling nation, it added.
Rubella, also known as German measles, is a contagious, generally mild viral infection that occurs most often in children and young adults. The disease has serious consequences in pregnant women causing fetal death or congenital disabilities known as congenital rubella syndrome (CRS).
When a woman is infected with the rubella virus early in pregnancy, she has a 90 percent chance of passing the virus on to her fetus, causing miscarriage, stillbirth or severe congenital disabilities known as CRS.
Children with CRS can suffer hearing impairments, eye and heart defects and other lifelong disabilities, including autism, diabetes mellitus, and thyroid dysfunction, many of which require costly therapy, surgeries, and other expensive care.
For this reason, women who are pregnant should be vaccinated against rubella in advance or have a pre-pregnancy rubella antibody test.
It is estimated that about 10,000 people develop congenital rubella syndrome worldwide every year, and nearly 9,000 of them are in the Western Pacific region to which Korea belongs.
WHO is establishing and implementing the Global Vaccine Action Plan with the aim of eliminating measles and rubella in at least five regions by 2020.
“We plan to establish a laboratory monitoring system to strengthen the rubella surveillance system,” KCDC Director Jung Eun-kyung정은경 said. “We will also continue to prevent infectious diseases with preemptive management by maintaining high vaccination rate and periodic immunity survey.”