Rubella, also known as German measles or three-day measles, is an infection caused by the rubella virus. This disease is often mild with half of people not realizing that they are sick. A rash may start around two weeks after exposure and last for three days. It usually starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. The rash is not as bright as that of measles and is sometimes itchy. Swollen lymph nodes are common and may last a few weeks. A fever, sore throat, and fatigue may also occur. In adults joint pain is common. Complications may include bleeding problems, testicular swelling, and inflammation of nerves. Infection during early pregnancy may result in a child born with congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) or miscarriage. Symptoms of CRS include problems with the eyes such as cataracts, ears such as deafness, heart, and brain. Problems are rare after the 20th week of pregnancy.
Rubella is usually spread through the air via coughs of people who are infected. People are infectious during the week before and after the appearance of the rash. Babies with CRS may spread the virus for more than a year. Only humans are infected. Insects do not spread the disease. Once recovered, people are immune to future infections. Testing is available that can verify immunity. Diagnosis is confirmed by finding the virus in the blood, throat, or urine. Testing the blood for antibodies may also be useful.
Rubella is preventable with the rubella vaccine with a single dose being more than 95% effective. Often it is given in combination with the measles vaccine and mumps vaccine, known as the MMR vaccine. With a population vaccination rate of less than 80%, however, more women might make it to childbearing age without developing immunity and issues could increase. Once infected there is no specific treatment.
Rubella is a common infection in many areas of the world. Each year about 100,000 cases of congenital rubella syndrome occur. Rates of disease have decreased in many areas as a result of vaccination. There are ongoing efforts to eliminate the disease globally. In April, 2015 the World Health Organization declared the Americas free of rubella transmission. The name “rubella” is from Latin and means little red. It was first described as a separate disease by German physicians in 1814 resulting in the name “German measles.”
Rubella has symptoms that are similar to those of flu. However, the primary symptom of rubella virus infection is the appearance of a rash (exanthem) on the face which spreads to the trunk and limbs and usually fades after three days (that is why it is often referred to as three-day measles). The facial rash usually clears as it spreads to other parts of the body. Other symptoms include low grade fever, swollen glands (sub occipital & posterior cervical lymphadenopathy), joint pains, headache, and conjunctivitis.
Rubella can cause congenital rubella syndrome in the newborn. The syndrome (CRS) follows intrauterine infection by the rubella virus and comprises cardiac, cerebral, ophthalmic and auditory defects. It may also cause prematurity, low birth weight, and neonatal thrombocytopenia, anemia and hepatitis. The risk of major defects or organogenesis is highest for infection in the first trimester. CRS is the main reason a vaccine for rubella was developed.
Many mothers who contract rubella within the first critical trimester either have a miscarriage or a stillborn baby. If the fetus survives the infection, it can be born with severe heart disorders (Patent ductus arteriosus being the most common), blindness, deafness, or other life-threatening organ disorders. The skin manifestations are called “blueberry muffin lesions”. For these reasons, rubella is included on the TORCH complex of perinatal infections.
About 100,000 cases of this condition occur each year.
Rubella. (2016, October 3). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18:29, October 3, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Rubella&oldid=742439079