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Measles & Rubella

Eliminating Measles, Rubella & Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS) Worldwide

Measles is one of the most contagious diseases in the world and is a leading cause of vaccine-preventable death among children. Rubella infection during pregnancy can cause congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) and is easily preventable by vaccination. Although the two have similar symptoms, they are different, but can be easily prevented with combined vaccines.

Failure to vaccinate children against measles and rubella puts them at risk of serious health complications, such as: pneumonia, diarrhea, brain damage, deafness, blindness and heart disorders. Rubella is generally a mild illness but when pregnant women become infected, there is a 90% chance of the fetus having congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). The baby can be born with multiple birth defects –if it survives at all. Rubella vaccination prevents mothers from giving birth to babies with CRS and prevents life-long disability. 100,000 babies are born with CRS around the world each year. More than 60% of the 21.5 million children who did not receive one dose of measles vaccine in 2013 came from only 6 countries: India: 6.4M | Nigeria: 2.7M | Pakistan: 1.7M | Ethiopia: 1.1M | Indonesia: 0.7M | DR Congo: 0.7M. A household in Ethiopia can lose 1 month’s income if 1 child is sick from measles. Measles is a leading cause of death among children around the world. 400 die every day, 16 every hour – despite the fact that a safe and e¬ffective vaccine has been available for over 50 years.

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The Measles & Rubella Initiative: Why Eliminating Measles & Rubella Matters to CDC

As a founding member of the Measles & Rubella Initiative, CDC provides support to partners and countries. The Measles & Rubella Initiative is a global partnership committed to ensuring no child dies from measles or rubella, or is born with congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) - the leading vaccine-preventable infectious disease cause of birth defects, which can also be fatal.

Founded in 2001, the Initiative is led by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization (WHO). Since then, the Initiative has supported the delivery of more than 1.7 billion doses of measles-containing vaccine and helped raise measles vaccination coverage to 85% globally. As a result, worldwide measles deaths have been reduced by 75%. Measles vaccine has prevented an estimated 15.6 million deaths from 2000-2013. In 2012, the Initiative also started to include activities to prevent rubella and CRS worldwide.

The Initiative aims to further reduce measles deaths by 95% by 2015, and eliminate measles in all six of the WHO regions by 2020. Four regions have goals for the control and elimination of rubella.

Read more about what we do to eliminate measles, rubella, and CRS worldwide.

  • Page last reviewed: February 4, 2015
  • Page last updated: February 4, 2015
  • Content source: Global Health
    Notice: Linking to a non-federal site does not constitute an endorsement by HHS, CDC or any of its employees of the sponsors or the information and products presented on the site.
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