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Rubella, also known as German measles, is still a problem in our community and outbreaks of the disease continue to occur regularly.
Rubella is generally a mild childhood disease, but it can also infect teenagers and adults. It is highly contagious. It spreads in the tiny droplets of moisture emitted by coughing and sneezing. After an exposure, symptoms may involve a slight fever, swollen glands and joint pain followed by a rash. It is also possible to become infected without obvious symptoms.
The unborn child is at greatest risk from rubella.
It can have devastating effects on the baby’s development in the womb. This type of rubella is called congenital rubella.
If the mother contracts rubella in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, her unborn child can die.
Or, the child can be born with serious birth defects such as:
It is particularly serious because in some cases damage might be caused to the unborn child before the mother even knows she is pregnant.
There are two ways to protect expectant mothers and their babies from rubella:
The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is given at 12 months of age and again at four years of age. This vaccine also provides protection from mumps and measles infection.
Women who intend to become pregnant should have a blood test to check that they are immune to rubella, as the immunisation they received as a child may need boosting. If they receive a booster vaccination, they should wait at least 28 days before conceiving.
Yes. The vaccine has minimal side effects. It contains small amounts of measles, mumps and rubella viruses that have been weakened so they help the body become immune. They do not result in the disease. The most common reaction may be a slight fever and feeling unwell for a short time. Occasionally a rash may occur, but it is not infectious.
The risk of complications after catching one of these diseases is far greater than any risks from the vaccines.
Yes. The vaccine provides immunity to rubella in more than 95% of people vaccinated. Since immunisation programs against rubella began, there has been a marked reduction in children affected by congenital rubella.
For more information on rubella, talk to your family doctor on your next visit.
Illustrations taken from Understanding Childhood Immunisation, with permission from the Commonwealth Department of Human Service and Health
©NRDGP 2004. This patient information leaflet may be reproduced with appropriate attribution. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org