Travel Alerts
Article by
Dani Reiter

Japan’s Rubella Outbreak Reaches 1,658 Cases in 2019

Pregnant women advised not to visit Japan by CDC Level 2 Travel Alert regarding rubella outbreak

little japanese child healthy

According to Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID), the ongoing rubella outbreak has reached 1,658 cases in 2019. 

As of June 5, 2019, the NIID Week #22 report indicates an additional 300 rubella cases were confirmed in just one month. 

This is unfortunate news since rubella poses a substantial risk to pregnant women and their unborn baby. 

These health risks are why the Canadian and USA governments continue issuing Level 2 Travel Alerts for Japan. 

As of June 6, 2019, the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends ‘that pregnant women who are not protected against rubella either through vaccination or previous rubella infection avoid traveling to Japan. 

This is especially important during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Additionally, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in the March 11, 2019 Level 2 Travel Alert, ‘travelers to Japan should ensure they are vaccinated against rubella with the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) before traveling abroad.' 

This is an important warning since approximately 4.5 million USA citizens visit Japan annually.

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These Travel Alerts are in reaction to the increasing number of rubella cases, and the risk of complications from Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS).

CRS can cause cataracts, congenital heart disease, hearing impairment, and developmental delay in infected children.

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On May 3, 2019, a study estimated the potential number of CRS cases in Japan could reach 98 women during 2019.

The Japanese government has set a goal to eliminate rubella from Japan by 2020 when the Summer Olympics will be held, reported Nippon.com.

To achieve this goal, Japan launched a free rubella vaccination program for Japanese men between the ages of 39 to 56. 

In the USA, there are 2 approved rubella vaccines, MMR-II, and ProQuad. Both vaccines are available at most pharmacies.

American travelers to Japan can request a rubella vaccine counseling appointment at Vax-Before-Travel.