Rubella Has Officially Been Eradicated in Australia

The World Health Organisation confirmed on Wednesday that rubella has officially been eradicated throughout Australia, an accomplishment that has ignited widespread praise for the nation’s health care system and vaccination program.

“The elimination of rubella is a highly significant public health accomplishment for Australia and sends a powerful message that vaccinations work,” Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt stated. “The science is in and the medical experts’ advice is absolute — vaccinations save lives and protect lives and they are an essential part of a healthy society. I commend the efforts of Australia’s health professionals over the decades and the millions of parents who ensure their children are always vaccinated.”

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The symptoms that arise in adults and children who contract rubella include a rash, fever, and swollen lymph glands. The consequences are considerably more stark for expectant mothers who may contract rubella during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. Many will suffer miscarriage or have children born with heart defects, liver disease, vision issues, deafness, or intellectual disabilities.

University of Sydney Professor Elizabeth Elliott told Fairfax Media she was accustomed to seeing children born with significant issues as a direct result of rubella exposure.

“Some of these children had microcephaly or a small brain, hence were developmentally delayed, really confining that child to a life where they had a significant disability,” she said. “They were children whose mothers might have just had a rash or fever during pregnancy.”

An influx of rubella cases throughout the 1950s led to the development of the rubella vaccine in the 1960s and the rollout of the nation’s first rubella vaccination program in 1971. Today, the National Immunisation Program provides free vaccinations against rubella for all 12-month-old children. A second booster is given at 18 months.

Australia now joins a cohort of over 30 nations who have all been declared rubella free, including Macau, Sri Lanka, Iceland, and Uzbekistan. Despite the World Health Organisation’s current Global Vaccine Action Plan, which intends to see rubella eliminated in five World Health Organisation regions by 2020, the disease remains prevalent in many countries.

SOURCE: Global Citizen