Between 1963 and 1965 a rubella (German measles) epidemic swept the nation. It caused thirty thousand miscarriages; another twenty thousand pregnant women who contracted the disease gave birth to babies who suffered severe deformities, including blindness, deafness, limb defects, heart defects, and mental retardation. Infection in the first half of pregnancy meant a 50 percent chance that the baby would be affected. Later infections, in the second half of pregnancy, were less devastating (only 20 percent of babies were affected).
Identifying the Virus.
Isolating the virus was the first step to developing a vaccine. Three different groups succeeded in identifying the rubella virus at about the same time: Drs. Paul Parkman and Edward L. Buescher at Walter Reed Army Institute for Research; Drs. Thomas Weiler and Franklin Neva at Harvard; and Drs. John L. Sever and Gilbert M. Schiff at the National...
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