In the city of Wuzhou in China, cases of rubella (German measles) are on the rise among unvaccinated teenagers and adults. Rubella is an acute, contagious viral infection spread by airborne droplets and can cause serious birth defects if it occurs during early pregnancy. Symptoms include rash, low fever, nausea, mild conjunctivitis and swollen lymph glands behind the ears and in the neck.
There is no specific treatment and medical personnel have alerted the public that vaccination is the only effective way to prevent rubella infection. Travellers to the area are advised to check their immunisation status for MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and also for tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough. As many people in the city have not been vaccinated, there is a chance of epidemic outbreaks.
The World Health Organization recommends that all countries that have not yet introduced rubella vaccines should consider doing so using existing, well-established measles immunisation programmes. To date, three WHO regions have established goals to eliminate this preventable cause of birth defects.