Rubella is a highly contagious viral infection characterised by mild skin rashes and fever. Also known as German measles, the symptoms of this viral infection are mild and they often go unnoticed. It, however, may have a serious impact on the foetus, if a pregnant woman gets infected by this virus. If the mother-to-be acquires the infection during the early stages of pregnancy, there is a risk of miscarriage, and even if the baby is carried to the term, the baby is prone to congenital deafness, congenital heart disease, cataract and nervous system disorders. Children are highly susceptible to this disease, however, the virus can infect a person of any age.
Large-scale rubella vaccination during the last decade has drastically reduced rubella in the developed countries. But there still are outbreaks of rubella in the developing nations.
Once the virus enters the body the symptoms of the infection may start appearing after two or three weeks of exposure. The symptoms shown by an infected person are listed below.
- The person may suffer from 2-3 days of mild fever. While the fever may be mild in children, it is likely to be severe in adults.
- Lymph nodes, usually in the back of the neck or behind the ears start swelling and become tender.
- After two to three days from acquiring the infection, a slightly itchy and pink-red rash may appear on the face, and later on the body. This rash may disappear within three days.
- Other symptoms that may appear in adults are headache, loss of appetite, a stuffy or runny nose, swollen lymph nodes in other parts of the body, and pain and swelling in the joints.
Skin rashes are a common symptom of the viral infection. Hence, a blood test is conducted to confirm a the presence of the virus. There is no particular treatment for this disease, therefore, drinking plenty of liquids, and taking over-the-counter painkillers may help reduce fever and recover. Taking enough rest will also speed up the recovery process. Most of the rubella patients recover within ten days.
Routine immunisation against rubella through MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccination protects the baby against this virus. The vaccine is given to the child for the first time in between twelve to fifteen months of age and then when the child is three to five years old. This vaccine gives protection against the virus for a long time. If a woman is pregnant or planning to conceive, she should undergo a screening for immunity to rubella. The vaccine can be taken at any age.