Rubella outbreak in a Rural Kenyan District, 2014: documenting the need for routine rubella immunization in Kenya

Ian Njeru, Dickens Onyango, Yusuf Ajack, Elizabeth Kiptoo
BMC Infectious Diseases 2015, 15: 245

BACKGROUND: Rubella infection has been identified as a leading cause of birth defects commonly known as Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS). Kenya does not currently have a rubella immunization program nor a CRS surveillance system. In 2014, a rubella outbreak was reported in a rural district in Kenya. We investigated the outbreak to determine its magnitude and describe the outbreak in time, place and person. We also analyzed the laboratory-confirmed rubella cases from 2010 to 2014 to understand the burden of the disease in the country.

METHODS: The Rubella outbreak was detected using the case-based measles surveillance system. A suspected case was a person with generalized rash and fever while a confirmed case was a person who tested positive for rubella IgM. All laboratory-confirmed and epidemiologically linked cases were line listed. The measles case-based surveillance database was used to identify rubella cases from 2010 to 2014.

RESULTS: A total of 125 rubella cases were line listed. Fifty four percent of cases were female. Case age ranged from 3 months to 32 years with a median of 4 years. Fifty-one percent were aged less than 5 years, while 82 % were aged less than 10 years. Six percent of the cases were women of reproductive age. All cases were treated as outpatients and there were no deaths. The number of confirmed rubella cases was 473 in 2010, 604 in 2011, 300 in 2012, 336 in 2013 and 646 in 2014.

CONCLUSIONS: Analysis of Kenya rubella data shows that rubella is endemic throughout the country, and many outbreaks may be underestimated or undocumented. Six percent of all the cases in this outbreak were women of reproductive age indicating that the threat of CRS is real. The country should consider initiating a CRS surveillance system to quantify the burden with the goal of introducing rubella vaccine in the future.


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