ATLANTA -- Two 1997 outbreaks of rubella aboard cruise ships prompted the government to recommend Thursday that crew members be given vaccines if they lack proof of immunity to the disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said six crew members became ill with rubella -- also called German measles -- while working on a cruise from Florida to the Bahamas in April. In July, at least 16 crew members came down with the disease on another ship traveling between the same ports.
The CDC said it doesn't know of any passengers who became ill, even though diseases can spread quickly on ships because passengers are in close quarters and often interact with each other.
On both ships, most of the crew members were not from the United States, where a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is commonly given to children, the CDC said.
Health officials suggested that crew members be vaccinated if they can't prove they have had the vaccine or offer other proof of immunity.
Although rubella usually has only mild symptoms -- fever, swollen lymph glands, red eyes and achy joints -- it can cause severe birth defects if a woman contracts it while pregnant.