§ 16. Mr. Gough
asked the Minister of Health if he will make a statement on the effects of rubella during pregnancy; and if he will state approximately the number of new-born babies over a convenient recent period who have been born deaf or otherwise handicapped as a result of their mothers contracting this disease.
§ Mr. Gough
Does my hon. Friend agree that this innocent disease, more commonly known as German measles, has a most insidious effect? Does not the analysis made, which shows that 20 per cent. of children—which, after all, is another way of putting one out of five—suffer from deafness or another form of disability, indicate a very serious problem?
§ Miss Pitt
Yes, it is one in five of the number coming under this particular test. The reaction of hon. Members made me think that my hon. Friend's point may have been misleading. It is important not to alarm mothers. The report of 1960 gave a more reassuring picture. It showed that the risk of congenital defects following rubella in pregnancy was less than had been feared. Many of the defects are now amenable to treatment.
§ Mr. K. Robinson
While it is important not to be alarmist, is it not important also not to be complacent? Is it not a fact that rubella contracted during the first month of pregnancy leads to a very much higher incidence of abnormality, which has been estimated by some geneticists as high as 50 to 85 per cent.? In the circumstances, does the hon. Lady think that sufficient research is being done?
§ Mr. Powell
I understand that attention is drawn to the nature of this hazard from time to time through the various channels of health education, and I have recently published the report of a special 6 inquiry, but I am advised that notifiability would not help.
§ Mr. Powell
I believe that special arrangements are in force in respect of teachers. Primarily, it is education by the local health authorities which can help in this matter. I am considering whether there is any further action I can take with them arising out of the report to which I have referred.
§ Sir G. Nicholson
I hope I am not doing my right hon. Friend or his Department an injustice, but I feel that there is a slight hint of complacency here. Whether the number of cases be small or large, they represent personal tragedies of a high order. I hope that he will press on with whatever steps he thinks are possible.
§ Mr. Powell
My hon. Friend does me an injustice if he thinks that I am complacent in this matter. It is important that mothers should be aware of the risk involved, especially, as the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) said, in the earlier weeks of pregnancy, and that they should take what steps are possible to avoid contact, seeking advice if they have reason to believe that contact has occurred.