Today’s factismal: In 1964-1965, there were 20,000 babies born with congenital rubella syndrome in the USA. In the past ten years, there were none, thanks to vaccines.
When it comes to nasty diseases, relatively safe ones like ebola (total death toll < 20,000) get most of the news. But throughout history, it has been the more common ailments like influenza (2014-2015 global death toll ~250,000) and measles (2014 global death toll ~145,000) and rubella (also known as the “German measles”, it affected 110,000 infants in 2013). That last is perhaps the scariest because it rarely kills directly. In children, rubella is only moderately dangerous; a good course of medicine and bed rest and the child recovers. But while they are infectious, those kids frequently come into contact with their mothers who are frequently pregnant with another child. And that’s where rubella gets scary.
Congenital rubella syndrome happens when a pregnant woman is infected with rubella. It can cause stillbirths and miscarriages; worse, it can affect the fetus’ development so that it ends up being deaf, dumb, blind, and has cognitive difficulties and heart problems. The last major outbreak of rubella in the USA happened in 1964-1965. Some 12.5 million people came down with the disease; as a result, there were about 20,000 children born with congenital rubella syndrome. Luckily, a vaccine for the disease had just been developed. Thanks to the push given by the recent scare, millions of people were vaccinated, leading to a rapid decrease in the number of cases. Thanks to that vaccination effort, there have been no cases of congenital rubella syndrome in the past ten years in America.
Today, the World Health Organization is trying to make rubella a thing of the past world-wide. If you’d like to help, then get your vaccination and then head over to the Measles and Rubella Initiative: