U.S. National Institutes of Health

Class 4: From rubella to Zika


This module concludes with a class that asks students to use what they have learned about the 1964 rubella epidemic, disability, and motherhood to the 2016 Zika epidemic. Drawing on content from all three previous classes, this session focuses on how historical analogies may and may not be useful during an epidemic.

  • Aiken, Abigail R.A., James G. Scott, Rebecca Gomperts, James Trussell, Marc Worrell, and Catherine E. Aiken. “Requests for Abortion in Latin America Related to Concern about Zika Virus Exposure.” New England Journal of Medicine 375, no. 4 (July 28, 2016): 396–98.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Similarities between Zika and Rubella.” August 5, 2016. https://www.cdc.gov/globalhealth/measles/zika_rubella.htm (accessed 5/22/2019).
  • Roth, Cassia. “The New Rubella: Zika and What It Means for Abortion Rights.” Nursing Clio (blog), February 11, 2016. https://nursingclio.org/2016/02/11/the-new-rubella-zika-and-what-it-means-for-abortion-rights/ (accessed 5/22/2019).
  • Guttmacher, Alan F., Frank Ayd Jr., and Richard D. Lamm (moderator). “Indications for a Therapeutic Abortion.” Concepts and controversies in modern medicine series video (31 mins.), U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Public Health Service, National Medical Audiovisual Center, 1969. http://resource.nlm.nih.gov/101096368
  • “Someday... You Might Have a Baby! Don’t Risk Birth Defects from Rubella!” Advertisement from the Oregon State Department of Public Health and March of Dimes, undated. http://resource.nlm.nih.gov/101439342

  1. What three points would you make if asked to explain rubella’s relevance to the current Zika epidemic?
  2. How do images of babies born to women infected with the Zika virus relate to previous images of children with disabilities?
  3. Based on the primary sources you read for the last three class periods, how would you design an informational campaign about Zika?
  4. Why do you find this historical analogy compelling? If not, why not?
  5. Why might an historical analogy like this be useful? What purpose might it serve in medical or policy discussions?