Health officials say the first region of the world to rid itself of German measles is North and South America.

World Health Organization officials on Wednesday said it has been more than five years since there's been a case that originated in the Americas. Now, the only German measles cases are imported from other parts of the world.

German measles — also known as rubella — is a viral disease spread through coughing or sneezing. It's generally a mild illness, involving a three-day rash and low-grade fever. But when pregnant women get it, the illness can cause birth defects.

In 2004, health officials declared it eliminated in the United States.

German measles is the third infectious disease to be eliminated from the Americas. The other two are smallpox and polio.