Recent outbreaks of measles in the United States have opened a depressing chapter for a disease that had been all but eliminated in this country until some idiotic anti-vaccination movement took root and began to spread like its own communicable disease. Some states, including California, are working on passing mandatory vaccination laws to enable us to get rid of measles once again. In the midst of this re-emergence of measles, there is actually some good news on the infectious disease front in the U.S. and beyond. Rubella has been declared eliminated in the Americas by the World Health Organization. Educator Kevin Seawright applauded the announcement.
This is a major public health win for the Western Hemisphere. Rubella, or German measles, was a major health concern in the U.S. as recently as the 1960’s. It was a particularly bad threat to pregnant women as it could cause birth defects and miscarriages. This disease is the “R” in the MMR vaccine that has been so effective at combating measles, mumps and rubella. This disease is still spreading in some other parts of the world, so the fight against it is not over. However, the Americas can serve as a beacon to the rest of the world that they too can overcome this dread disease through a conscientious immunization program. Most of us are not old enough to remember when these diseases ran rampant in our society, and if we are not careful, ignorance about the efficacy and safety of vaccines may bring them all back.