IntroductionRubella is a mild childhood disease, also known as German measles.
Rubella vaccination is currently not part of the national routine
immunisation schedule. The reasons are:
- Natural infections in childhood render 85-90% of women of childbearing age protected against the disease
- No research on rubella or congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) has been done
in South Africa. Therefore rubella vaccination cannot be included in the
schedule without scientific foundation.
What is rubella?
Rubella is a mild viral illness caused by the rubella virus. It is an
infectious disease and dangerous because of its ability to harm unborn
What are the signs and symptoms of rubella?
- Infected people get a rash that appears like small, fine pink spots. The rash first appears on the face and progresses from head to foot, lasting about 3 days.
- Children usually develop few or no other symptoms.
- Adults can have mild fever, headache, reddened eyes, swollen glands behind the ears, tiredness, and joint pain.
How do people get rubella?
- People get rubella by breathing in droplets that get into the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.
- Rubella can also spread by direct contact with fluids from the nose or throat of an infected person.
How is rubella diagnosed?
- Diagnosis is made on the basis of signs and symptoms, blood tests and history taking.
What is the treatment for rubella?
- There is no treatment for rubella. The illness usually runs its course in a few days
How can rubella be prevented?
- Children can be immunised at 15 months to be protected and to protect others from rubella. The rubella vaccine is part of the MMR (measles, mumps,
rubella) vaccine provided by private health sector.
- To help protect unborn babies from CRS, women must not be exposed to rubella in their first three months of pregnancy
- Any pregnant woman who has been exposed to rubella should be referred to the nearest health facility
What complications can result from rubella?
When a woman gets rubella during pregnancy, especially during the first 3
months, the infection is likely to spread to the unborn baby and cause
congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). CRS can cause miscarriage, stillbirth,
and severe birth defects.
The most common birth defects are:
- Heart damage
- Microcephaly (the head is too small for the body)
- mental retardation
- Liver and spleen damage.
Any child who is suspected to be suffering from rubella should be taken to the nearest health facility immediately for examination and investigation
Children suffering from rubella should not attend school, day care or crèche (should be kept away from other children) until they no longer have rubella rash
Women in their first three months of pregnancy should not be exposed to rubella
Women known to be pregnant or attempting to become pregnant should not receive rubella vaccine.
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