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Last cases of rubella and congenital rubella syndrome in Spain, 1997–2016: The success of a vaccination program

Seppälä, Elina Marjukka, López-Perea, Noemí, Torres de Mier, María de Viarce, Echevarría, Juan E., Fernández-García, Aurora, Masa-Calles, Josefa
Vaccine 2019 v.37 no.1 pp. 169-175
World Health Organization, cataract, childhood, deafness, heart diseases, monitoring, mothers, neonates, pregnant women, protocols, statistics, vaccination, vaccines, viruses, Africa, Asia, Eastern European region, Latin America, Spain
With a highly immunized population, rubella infection in Spain is so low that the WHO has declared the elimination of rubella. Rubella in pregnant women is also very rare. The objective of this study is to describe the last cases of congenital rubella syndrome reported and recommend actions to maintain the status of the disease as eliminated.The CRS cases reported to the Spanish National Epidemiological Surveillance Network between 1997 and 2016 were studied, and the epidemiological, clinical, diagnostic and maternal characteristics of newborns with CRS described. The incidence of CRS was calculated using Birth Statistics from the Spanish National Statistics Agency (INE).Twenty-three cases of CRS were reported, 70% of which were associated with rubella outbreaks. The most common clinical conditions were heart disease (52.2%), deafness (39.1%) and cataracts (30.4%); 91.3% of cases were confirmed by laboratory testing. 70.0% were born from a non-vaccinated foreign mother, resident in Spain (cumulative rate incidence (CR): 1.1/100,000 births), with mothers coming from Africa (36.0%), Latin America (29.0%), Eastern Europe (21.0%) and Asia (14.0%). Six were born to Spanish mothers (CR: 0.08/ 100,000 births), the last of which were in 2005.The majority of CRS cases were born to unvaccinated immigrant women infected in Spain during rubella outbreaks. Universal vaccination in childhood is the most efficient strategy to prevent rubella. The limited circulation of the virus will, however, quickly lead to a loss of awareness about rubella among clinicians and epidemiologists. It is necessary to maintain protocols capable of identifying signs consistent with rubella in pregnant women and signs suggestive of congenital rubella in newborns.