The epidemiology of rubella and congenital rubella in Australia, 1992 to 1997

Commun Dis Intell. 1999 Aug 5;23(8):209-14.


Selective rubella vaccination of schoolgirls commenced in 1971 and was followed by a significant reduction in congenital rubella. Infant vaccination with MMR was introduced in 1989 to interrupt circulation of the virus in young children, and in 1994/95 the adolescent school based rubella vaccination program was changed to MMR for both boys and girls. This report reviews the epidemiology of rubella and congenital rubella between 1992 and 1997 using reports to the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS) and the Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit (APSU). Notification rates for rubella exceeded 20 per 100,000 in 1992, 1993 and 1995 and declined to 7.2 per 100,000 in 1997. Sixty-one per cent of notifications occurred between September and December and 68% occurred in males. The incidence rate in males aged 15-22 years peaked at 152.6 per 100,000 in 1995 reflecting the lack of immunisation in this cohort. From 1993 to 1997, 19 children were reported with congenital rubella syndrome, representing 1 in 67,000 live births. Of these, 17 had multiple defects (4 died) and 2 had deafness only. There were also 5 infants with congenital rubella infection but no defects. Australia's rate of congenital rubella syndrome exceeded that of the United Kingdom and the United States of America but this may be partly attributable to differences in reporting practices. The impact of changing the second dose of MMR vaccine to 4 years of age in 1998 will require careful monitoring.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Measles Vaccine
  • Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccine
  • Middle Aged
  • Mumps Vaccine
  • Pregnancy
  • Rubella / epidemiology*
  • Rubella / prevention & control
  • Rubella Syndrome, Congenital / epidemiology*
  • Rubella Syndrome, Congenital / prevention & control
  • Rubella Vaccine
  • Sex Distribution
  • Vaccines, Combined


  • Measles Vaccine
  • Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccine
  • Mumps Vaccine
  • Rubella Vaccine
  • Vaccines, Combined