Vaccines can help curb spread

Q: What kind of disease is rubella?

A: The disease is caused by the rubella virus and spreads via airborne droplets of saliva and other contact. Symptoms include rashes, fever and swollen lymph nodes, and a patient can be contagious for a period of about five days even after rashes disappear. Medical experts say the disease is more common from spring to early summer.

Q: Why is the disease spreading now?

A: Some people are more susceptible to the disease, as there have been times when only women could receive periodic vaccinations, or when individual vaccination rates were low. According to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, the current outbreak is caused by a different virus from the one that resulted in a major outbreak in 2004. Outbreaks of the same type of rubella were confirmed in countries including Vietnam, and experts believe it was brought to Japan from other Asian nations.

Q: How can we prevent infection?

A: Preventive vaccinations are the most effective method. Although there is a shortage of vaccinations, existing stocks of measles-rubella (MR) vaccines are also effective. Pregnant women cannot be vaccinated, so it is important for their husbands and other family members to be vaccinated. Avoiding crowded areas is also recommended.