One of the most important scientific breakthroughs of the modern era, the MMR vaccine, has claimed yet another victim: the Rubella viral infection.
The Americans are now the first region in the world to have officially eradicated Rubella, also known as German measles, according to the World Health Organization — and it’s all thanks to the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.
The Pan American Health Organization surveyed millions of health records and checked a huge amount of communities to come to the conclusion, which means that the only way Rubella springs up in the Americas is if it is brought here from elsewhere in the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention verified that all known cases of the virus in the Americas were from strains that were non-domestic.
The campaign to eliminate Rubella began all the way back in 2003, although the vaccine has been available since 1969. Rubella had been eradicated in the United States in 2005, but Caribbean men remained carriers until recently due to the fact that the vaccine was focused on the highest-risk groups.
Rubella is an infection that is caused by the Rubella virus, and it often does not have serious effects for half of people, who sometimes don’t even realize they are sick. The most common symptom is a rash that forms two weeks after exposure and lasts for a few days, starting on the face before spreading to the body. Fever, sort throat, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes are common symptoms, and sometimes joint paint in adults.
The biggest risk of Rubella is pregnant women, and the disease is very serious for them. It results in what is known as congenital rubella syndrome (CRS), which can result in a miscarriage, stillbirth, or at the very least cause serious birth defects in children that can result in brain damage, deafness or blindness, or heart problems.
Rubella is spread through the air, usually from coughs from infected individuals. The disease is only present in humans, and is not spread by insects. People who contract Rubella are immune to it after recovering.
It’s a common disease in the world, with 100,000 occurring each year. It was discovered by German physicians in 1814, which is why it’s called German measles.
Just because it’s been technically eradicated from the Americas doesn’t mean that vaccines aren’t necessary anymore. Eradication means that the disease doesn’t originate in the target area, not that it can’t be brought here and reemerge. Basically, it means there is not person-to-person spread in children in America, it does not mean that the disease does not come into the country from other parts of the world where it is more common or hasn’t been properly dealt with with vaccines.
Unfortunately, it could certainly reemerge in America thanks to a campaign by anti-vaccination advocates. The “anti-vaxxers” as they are often called are a growing community of individuals who believe incorrectly that vaccines can cause autism in children, a rumor that has been debunked numerous times by scientists. The original author of the study that claimed this has long since been discredited, but the movement continues to gain steam.
The anti-vaxxer movement has directly led to the recent outbreaks of measles, which had been eliminated in this country but is starting to make a comeback due to the anti-vaxxer push to keep children from getting vaccinations.
Measles is extremely contagious, even more so than Rubella or mumps, and it requires 94 percent of people to be vaccinated for so-called “herd immunity” to take effect, whereas Rubella requires an 85 percent vaccination rate.
The mostly widely publicized outbreak of measles happened at Disneyland earlier this year. Health officials suspect that people who refused vaccinations are suspected to be behind the outbreak.
Research published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics found that people who were infected in the measles outbreak had vaccination rates that are well below the threshold recommended by health experts: as low as 50 percent.
A patient who had the virus visited Disneyland, which led to the infection of nearly 200 people over three months, officials believe. They suspect it was a foreign visitor to the theme park, and the measles was able to spread thanks to families who have bought into the anti-vaccination campaign and have rejected the government’s suggested vaccination scheduled for children, leaving them vulnerable to the disease.
As the anti-vaccination campaign continues to push forward, experts believe the measles outbreaks will only get worse, growing in both scale and in scope.
The national rates of MMR vaccination are at about 92 percent right now, but research has found that those who avoid immunizations tend to cluster together in the same community, which makes measles more easy to spread to others. As a result, some school districts have undervaccination rates that are alarmingly high — five times that of the state average in some cases.
Probably the best known disease eradicated by vaccines was polio, which used to terrorize the world, paralyzing children for life. Efforts to immunize people from the disease has resulted in eradicating polio from 99 percent of the world’s population, and the disease now only lurks in the poorest and most remote communities, where it still threatens some at-risk children.
Polio, short for poliomyelitis, is an infectious disease of the poliovirus. About 90 to 95 percent of infections don’t cause any symptoms, and another 5 to 10 percent receive minor symptoms including fever, headache, and stiffness, usually healing in one or two weeks.
It is most dangerous when contracted in the infant stage, which can result in children growing up with withered limbs and paralysis. The disease is in fact also called infantile paralysis because of how it disproportionately harms children.
Polio epidemics emerged in Europe and the United States at the beginning of the 20th century, and the 1952 polio epidemic was the worst outbreak in the United States’ history, with iron lungs required for patients to breathe.
While it appears unlikely that polio is likely to make a comeback anytime soon because of how much it has been eliminated, other diseases like measles could certainly make a strong comeback if the anti-vaccination campaign continues to grow in strength and parents avoid getting their children immunized.