Pregnant women and infants should temporarily avoid visiting Japan, as there have been outbreaks of measles and rubella (German measles) there, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said in an official warning yesterday.
A total of 148 measles cases were confirmed in Japan between Jan. 1 and Feb. 3, the highest number for the first five weeks of the year since 2013, with 49 cases in Mie Prefecture and 43 in Osaka Prefecture, the centers said.
About 2,900 cases of rubella were confirmed in Japan last year, the second-highest annual number in a decade, and the outbreak has continued to spread this year, the agency said.
Photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control
Between Jan. 1 and Feb. 3, 367 cases of rubella were confirmed in Japan, with 101 cases in Tokyo Metropolis, 57 cases in Kanagawa Prefecture and 37 cases in Chiba Prefecture.
Measles and rubella are highly contagious, CDC Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞) said, adding that rubella infection can result in stillbirth, miscarriage, preterm birth and a variety of birth defects, including deafness, glaucoma, cataracts, intellectual disabilities and heart defects.
Newborn babies have about a 90 percent chance of developing congenital rubella syndrome if the mother was infected with rubella in the first 12 weeks of her pregnancy, Lo said.
Pregnant women and infants younger than 12 months are at higher risk of developing complications from measles and rubella infection, so they should avoid visiting Japan if possible, he said.
Children older than six months, but under 12 months of age should be given a measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine two weeks before traveling to areas that have had outbreaks, he added.
However, MMR vaccines cannot be administered to pregnant women or those attempting to conceive, Lo said, adding that they should consult a doctor if they must travel to high-risk prefectures.
People born in or after 1981 who plan to visit Japan should see a doctor to evaluate whether they need to receive MMR vaccinations before traveling, he said.
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