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Rubella (German measles) in Japan and Poland

Updated: February 28, 2014

Travel Health Notice

At the beginning of 2013, outbreaks of rubella, also known as German measles, were reported in Japan and Poland. In Japan, over 14,000 cases were reported, mainly concentrated in the Osaka and Tokyo Metropolis Prefectures. In Poland, over 40,000 cases were reported throughout the country. Cases of rubella in both countries continue to be reported.

Rubella is a highly contagious viral disease that occurs in cycles and in most countries in the world, other than the Americas, where cases are occasional and sporadic as a result of high immunization rates. However, exposure is possible anywhere where people gather, e.g., airports. It is usually a mild illness that most often affects children, but if a pregnant woman catches rubella, it can cause serious health complications for her unborn baby. Therefore, pregnant women should discuss travel plans with their health care provider to ensure they are protected (previous rubella infection or vaccination) before travelling.

Pregnant women who are not protected against rubella either through vaccination or previous rubella infection should avoid travelling to Japan and Poland during this outbreak. This is especially important during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The number of rubella cases reported globally has decreased significantly in the last decade. However, people of any age who have not been effectively vaccinated or have not had rubella disease are at risk of being infected. 

The Public Health Agency of Canada reminds travellers to make sure their rubella vaccination is up-to-date.

Recommendations

Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel.

  1. Get vaccinated
    Canadians are reminded to keep all routine vaccinations up-to-date. See the recommended routine vaccine schedule for further information.

    Travellers should be up-to-date on rubella immunization regardless of their travel destination. 
    • Infants and children:
      • One dose of a rubella-containing vaccine should be given for routine immunization.
    • Adolescents and adults: 
      • Adolescents and adults who do not have proof of receiving a rubella-containing vaccine on or after their first birthday or proof of immunity should receive one dose of rubella-containing vaccine.
    • You may be protected against rubella if:
      • You have documented proof of vaccination with a rubella-containing vaccine on or after your first birthday.
      • You have proof of immunity (e.g. through blood testing).
  2. Avoid travel for non-immune pregnant women
    • Pregnant women who are not protected against rubella either through vaccination or previous rubella infection should avoid travelling to Japan and Poland during this outbreak. This is especially important during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. If travel cannot be avoided, discuss your plans with a health care provider for further assessment and advice.
  3. Monitor your health
    • If you develop symptoms similar to rubella when you return to Canada, you should see a health care provider.
    • Describe your symptoms to your health care provider before your appointment, so that he/she can arrange to see you without exposing others to rubella.