Rubella Outbreak in Japan

The Department of Public Health and Social Services (DPHSS) has been informed that an outbreak of rubella, also known as German measles, is currently occurring in Japan.  As of March 21, 2013, the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Japan reported a total of 2,021 cases of rubella.   The highest numbers of cases reported are in Tokyo followed by Kanagawa then Chiba.

Rubella is a moderately contagious disease of the respiratory tract caused by Rubella virus.  The symptoms of rubella include mild fever, rash, runny nose, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, and aching joints.  Although the symptoms of Rubella are mild, infection is more severe in early pregnancy and may cause a variety of birth defects or may even lead to a miscarriage.

It would be advisable for persons traveling to Japan to make sure they have been vaccinated for rubella (given in combination with the measles and mumps vaccines) 2 weeks before departing.

The DPHSS encourages pregnant women to protect themselves and parents to protect their infants and young children by minimizing exposure (close contact) to persons who have a rash-like illness and cold symptoms. Parents should check their children’s immunization (shot) records to ensure they received all age-appropriate vaccines. 

The current recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are:

  • Children should receive two doses of Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine, with the first dose given at 1 year of age or older and dose #2 given between 4-6 years of age.
  • All persons born during or after 1957 should have documentation of at least one dose of MMR vaccine given on or after the first birthday.


Furthermore, all health care providers are urged to review and update the immunization status of all patients they see.  If vaccination is contraindicated because of illness, a follow-up appointment should be scheduled to update vaccination as soon as the illness is over.

For more information, please call the DPHSS Immunization Program at 735-7143.

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