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 infected. 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 sometimes itchy and is not as bright as that of measles. 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.When some, but less than 80%, of a population is vaccinated, more women may reach childbearing age without developing immunity by infection or vaccination, thus possibly raising CRS rates. Once infected there is no specific treatment.
Rubella can cause congenital rubella syndrome in the newborn, the most severe sequela of rubella. 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.