English | Dzongkha Sunday, February 17, 2019

Bhutan among first six countries to control rubella before target year of 2020

Phub Gyem, Thimphu
Aug 12, 2018

Bhutan is among the first six countries in the WHO South-East Asia Region to control rubella and congenital rubella syndrome before the target year- 2020.

Rubella control is achieved when a country reduces the number of rubella cases by 95 per cent as compared to the number of rubella cases in 2008.

“In our country, we are no longer seeing any congenital rubella syndrome case. But, we do have a few rubella cases. Last year, we attended just nine rubella cases compared to 350 in 2003,” said Tshewang Tamang with Vaccine Preventable Diseases Programme under the Department of Public Health.

Rubella is a viral infection caused by the rubella virus, resulting in fever and mild rashes. It is also said to be highly contagious which can spread through close contact or through the air.

Congenital rubella syndrome is an illness in infants that results from maternal infection with rubella virus during pregnancy.

Health officials say rubella is not a serious virus but when its infection occurs at early pregnancy stage, it will cause problems such as stillbirths, miscarriages and birth defects in a fetus.

“If an expectant mother is infected with rubella virus during the first trimester, there is an almost 90 per cent chance that she can transmit the virus to the fetus. This could result in multiple birth defects such as deafness, visual impairment and congenital heart diseases,” adds Tshewang Tamang.

The first rubella outbreak was reported in 2003 from nine districts in the country. During the same year, an analysis from the pediatric unit of the Thimphu National Referral hospital showed that 38 out of 102 children tested positive for congenital rubella syndrome.

Following that, the health ministry carried out nationwide measles and rubella catch-up campaign in 2006.

Since then the number of rubella cases has decreased. From 350 in 2003, it has come down to five this year.

However, the incidence of congenital rubella syndrome has been zero.

The health ministry is still providing rubella vaccines to infants aged two years and below. A child is given two doses of rubella vaccines, one at nine months and another at 24 months of age.


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