It’s a disease no one talks about, but new research has found that German measles, or rubella, which causes miscarriage, stillbirth and birth defects in pregnant women, is putting the lives of thousands of women and children at risk.
According to a new study by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), at least 6,000 people in SA have been affected by rubella, against which the country is only vaccinated in the private sector, within a five-year period.
Those living in KwaZulu-Natal are more likely to contract this viral infection, with the rate of rubella infections increasing 14-fold between 2016 and 2017.
The Free State had the highest rate at around 2.5 % had the lowest number of rubella cases.
Rubella cases mainly affected children under 10 years of age. National surveillance data from 2015-2019 show that rubella is seasonal, peaking in spring , between September and November.
Ruella affected both males and females similarly with 3,289 females infected while 3,232 were males . The highest number of cases occurred in 2017 when 2,526 cases were registered, followed by 1,496 cases in 2019.
Gauteng accounted for about 22% of the cases, or 1,492 during the period. While most cases occurred in children by the age of five, about 5% were women of childbearing age. KwaZulu-Natal saw a precipitous increase in rubella during this period from just 53 cases in 2016 to 730 in 2017. The mortality rate was 13% of all cases and the most common birth defect associated with rubella was congenital heart disease. p>
Researchers from NICD said the latest study provides insight into the burden of rubella and congenital rubella syndrome in SA, which could allow planning the introduction of a rubella-containing vaccine into the country’s immunization program.
They said the latest data “show that rubella and congenital rubella syndrome are significant health problems in South Africa”.
In the absence of a public rubella vaccine, the infection “may be associated with the accumulation of susceptible individuals in the population and with a high contact rate”.
“During the surveillance period While the disease is short, five years, the national epidemic trajectory suggests that outbreaks of rubella follow a two-year cycle that is more frequent than the prevaccination outbreaks reported in the United States, which occur every six to nine years. or in Europe every three to five years. Our five-year interval may be too short to clearly represent the frequency of outbreaks at the provincial or district level,” the researchers said.
“These data can be used for epidemiological modeling and as a basis for rubella-containing vaccines Vaccination options such as targeting different age groups, targeting young girls and boys, and catch-up campaign strategies,” they wrote in PLOS One.
They said outbreaks of rubella should be investigated and documented, arguing that the decrease in reported cases of congenital rubella syndrome “underlines the urgent need for increased newborn screening”.< /span>
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