Taiwan issues measles and rubella warning for Japan-bound travelers

Measles and rubella, which is also called German measles, are highly contagious. (NOWnews)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan health authorities warned of outbreaks of measles and rubella in Japan on Feb. 16, saying travelers wishing to experience cherry blossom season in Japan should exercise caution, especially pregnant women and children under 1 year of age.

Measles and rubella, which is also called German measles, are highly contagious, said Lo Yi-chun (羅一鈞), Deputy Director-General of Centers for Disease Control (CDC, 疾病管制署).

For women in the early stages of pregnancy, rubella can cause stillbirths or miscarriages. In newborns, rubella can result in hearing loss, glaucoma and congenital defects such as heart disease and even death, Lo said.

If a woman in the first trimester is infected with rubella, the fetus has a 90-percentage chance of being infected, added Lo.

According to the Asahi Shimbun, there have been 46 confirmed measles cases in Osaka Prefecture this year as of Feb. 12, more than triple the figure for all 2018.

About 2,900 people in Japan were diagnosed with rubella in 2018, the worst outbreak rate in 10 years, and the epidemic continues, CDC monitoring data shows.

If travel to affected areas is unavoidable, Lo recommended that children over 6 months and under 1-year-old should be given one dose of self-paid MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine at a local clinic two weeks prior to traveling.

Pregnant women who have not received the vaccine should consult a doctor before traveling, Lo said.

According to the CDC, there are 100,000 doses of self-paid MMR vaccine available at present. Adults born in or after 1981 who plan to visit Japan are advised to pay for vaccination prior to traveling.

The World Health Organization warned Thursday that efforts to halt the spread of measles are failing, with case numbers increasing about 50 percent worldwide last year.

By Chen Wei-ting and Chung Yu-chen