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CDC Declares End to U.S. Rubella Threat

The virus was once a major cause of birth defects and deafness

MONDAY, May 16, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- It's official: Rubella -- also known as German measles -- is no longer a major public health threat to newborns in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Maternal infection with the virus during pregnancy can greatly raise a baby's risk for serious birth defects and deafness.

But at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Washington, D.C., CDC officials presented data Sunday showing that rubella vaccination levels in the United States are now at sufficiently high levels to eliminate rubella transmission altogether. They said national rubella immunization levels among children under 2 years of age have topped 90 percent since 1995.

"The elimination of rubella in the United States is a tremendous step in protecting the health and well-being of pregnant women and infants," Dr. Julie Gerberding, CDC director, said in a prepared statement.

"A disease that once seriously harmed tens of thousands of infants is no longer a major health threat, thanks to a safe and effective vaccine and successful immunization programs across the country. We should take pride in this accomplishment, and also recognize that we must maintain our vigilance or we can see a resurgence of disease," Gerberding added.

Dr. Sharon Bloom, a medical officer with CDC's National Immunization Program, agreed that continued effort is necessary to keep rubella in check.

"We still need to continue rubella vaccination to sustain this success, because if vaccination coverage drops significantly, rubella ... could quickly return to being a major public health problem in the U.S.," Bloom said.

More information

The American Medical Association has more about rubella.

SOURCE: Pediatric Academic Societies, news release, May 15, 2005
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