After reporting nearly 3,000 rubella cases in 2018, the cases continue into 2019 in Japan. According to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Tokyo, 280 additional cases were reported during the first four weeks of 2019.

Image/Japan Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry
Image/Japan Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry

The outbreak, with 2/3s of the cases affecting men between the ages of 30 and 60, has prompted the Japan Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry (computer translated) to roll out a rubella vaccination promotion featuring the main character from the action manga “City Hunter,” Ryo Saeba, and his partner Kaori Makimura. “We need you to take action to eradicate rubella,” the poster reads.

The campaign combines a test for rubella antibodies with a free vaccination for men born between April 2, 1962, and April 1, 1979. The service will be available through the end of March 2022.

Health regulations in place from 1977 to 1995 required only that junior high school girls be vaccinated for rubella, making men who are now between the ages of 30 and 60 vulnerable to infection.

Rubella, or German measles infection in people is typically mild. However, in pregnant women, rubella can cause death or birth defects such as cataracts, deafness, glaucoma, and heart, lung and brain abnormalities in an unborn baby (fetus) during the first few months of pregnancy.