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Trends of rubella incidence during a 5-year period of case based surveillance in Zimbabwe

Simbarashe Chimhuya, Portia Manangazira, Arnold Mukaratirwa, Pasipanodya Nziramasanga, Chipo Berejena, Annie Shonhai, Mary Kamupota, Regina Gerede, Mary Munyoro, Douglas Mangwanya, Christopher Tapfumaneyi, Charles Byabamazima, Eshetu Messeret Shibeshi, Kusum Jackison Nathoo
BMC Public Health 2015 March 27, 15: 294
25885586

BACKGROUND: Rubella is a disease of public health significance owing to its adverse effects during pregnancy and on pregnancy outcomes. Women who contract rubella virus during pregnancy may experience complications such as foetal death or give birth to babies born with congenital rubella syndrome. Vaccination against rubella is the most effective and economical approach to control the disease, and to avoid the long term effects and high costs of care for children with congenital rubella syndrome as well as to prevent death from complications. Zimbabwe commenced rubella surveillance in 1999, despite lacking a rubella vaccine in the national Expanded Programme on Immunization, as per the World Health Organization recommendation to establish a surveillance system to estimate the disease burden before introduction of a rubella vaccine. The purpose of this analysis is to describe the disease trends and population demographics of rubella cases that were identified through the Zimbabwe national measles and rubella case-based surveillance system during a 5-year period between 2007 and 2011.

METHODS: Data from the Zimbabwe National Measles Laboratory for the 5-year study period were analysed for age, sex, district of origin, seasonality, and rubella IgM serostatus.

RESULTS: A total of 3428 serum samples from cases of suspected measles in all administrative districts of the country were received by the laboratory during this period. Cases included 51% males and 49% females. Of these, 2999 were tested for measles IgM of which 697 (23.2%) were positive. Of the 2302 measles IgM-negative samples, 865 (37.6%) were rubella IgM-positive. Ninety-eight percent of confirmed rubella cases were children younger than 15 years of age. Most infections occurred during the dry season.

CONCLUSIONS: The national case-based surveillance revealed the disease burden and trends of rubella in Zimbabwe. These data add to the evidence for introducing rubella-containing vaccine into the national immunization programme.

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