Macau Health Bureau Quells Rubella Outbreak Rumors as 24 Casino Employees Succumb

Posted on: May 13, 2019, 05:52h. 

Last updated on: May 13, 2019, 05:59h.

Despite 37 cases of rubella so far this year — including two dozen involving casino workers — Macau’s Health Bureau is insisting the Chinese gaming territory is not suffering from an outbreak of the disease also known as German measles.

Concerns about an uptick in cases of rubella at Macau casinos, particularly among employees, has prompted the Health Bureau there to issue a statement about the disease’s status. (Image:

In a statement released over the weekend, the Bureau confirmed the spike in cases this year, but stopped short of calling the situation an outbreak, instead citing external factors for the problem.

“Rubella cases are more likely to occur in hotels and casinos, because workers … are more likely to be in contact with foreign tourists,” the statement, written in Portuguese and reported by GGRAsia, said.

The latest numbers double the 12 cases reported among casino workers in the first two weeks in April. Those were evenly divided among workers from the City of Dreams and StarWorld Hotel. Rubella is a contagious, viral disease and is best prevented via vaccination.

“Most people who get rubella usually have a mild illness, with symptoms that can include a low-grade fever, sore throat, and a rash that starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body,” according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Rubella Danger Zones

The Health Bureau acknowledged that although casino and hotel employees are more vulnerable to rubella — because those staffers have higher exposure to international guests — there are no signs of ongoing transmission of the disease among the Macau community at large.

“ … as cases of collective infection of workers at various hotels and casinos and the onset period of patients’ symptoms were similar, it is believed that they were exposed to the same source of infection, with no widespread dissemination in these properties,” the Health Bureau statement reads.

In 2015, it was revealed that rubella was eliminated in the US, but the disease is still common in other parts of the world. Earlier this year, the spike in reported rubella cases in Macau prompted the Health Bureau to test pregnant women working at StarWorld for the disease.

“Rubella can cause a miscarriage or serious birth defects in a developing baby if a woman is infected while she is pregnant,” according to the CDC.

Earlier this month, the bureau also said four people working at the casino inside the New Orient Landmark hotel had confirmed cases of the disease.

Influx from Asia

Macau, the only Chinese region where gambling is legal, is largely dependent on tourism spending. It attracted 10.36 million visitors in the first quarter of 2019. In March, over 70 percent of visitors to Macau were from mainland China — with Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan also representing among demographics.

Macau’s Health Bureau did not mention a specific source or country concerning the current uptick in rubella cases.

Given … a high vaccination rate in Macau, it is to be expected that there will not be an epidemic outbreak in the community,” the statement said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the measles-rubella vaccine has saved at least 21 million lives since 2000, but reported outbreaks of the diseases are rising because in some developing economies where vaccination rates are low.

And although the measles was declared defunct just 19 years ago, a recent spike in cases in the US, as reported by the CDC, has now brought 2019’s cases to 839 across 23 states so far this year.