Alphabetic Guide to Child Care - Rubella (german measles)

Rubella (German Measles)

Rubella was once thought of as a benign disease. Then it was discovered that it could have serious consequences if it were contracted by a woman during the first three months of her pregnancy. The virus that causes rubella is transmitted from the infected woman to her unborn baby, and has been linked to birth defects of the heart, eye, ear, and liver, and to mental retardation.

In addition, a baby who has been exposed to the disease in utero may infect others even though he himself is not affected by it and shows no symptoms. (In fact, most babies are immune to rubella during their first year.) The rubella virus is highly contagious and spreads rapidly.

Rubella has been on the increase in recent years, largely due to the number of young adults who have never been vaccinated. Although it can be a mild illness, it can also cause severe birth defects if contracted by a pregnant woman. Because of the risk of miscarriage and birth defects, pregnant women are advised against getting the immunization during the course of their pregnancy. Anyone who suspects that they or their children were not vaccinated should seek immunization immediately.

The incubation period for rubella is two to three weeks. Symptoms include earache, swollen glands behind the ears, a low-grade fever, and a usually mild, blotchy rash that erupts over the body but lasts only a few days.

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