Rubella, also known as German measles, used to be a very dangerous and life-threatening disease. Research over the past few years however, has helped scientists to learn different and more effective ways of preventing and treating the disease.
Rubella is typically a mild illness. Many may contract the disease and never know that they have it. Adults are typically much sicker with rubella than children are. Symptoms are flu-like and often include headache, runny nose, muscle pain, low fever, joint pain and redness in the eyes. Today, the biggest threat of rubella is for women who are pregnant. During the first twenty weeks of pregnancy, rubella can cause problems for the unborn child. Miscarriage is possible before the 20th week for pregnant women with rubella as well as other dangers to the baby such as deafness, cataracts and damage to the brain or the heart.
A specific virus causes rubella. It is transmitted from one person to another through close contact or even through the air. While there is no treatment for this disease to date, there are vaccines that were designed to prevent it.
The vaccine for rubella was developed in 1969. Before that time, epidemics of rubella occurred every six to nine years. These epidemics most commonly occurred in young children between the ages of five and nine. Once the vaccine was developed however, these outbreaks virtually stopped.
Vaccinations for rubella are typically given to young children between 12 to 15 months of age. This vaccine is included in the scheduled vaccinations of children. The first dose of the MMR, which includes vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella, is generally followed up by a second dose given before the child begins school, normally around age five.
Pregnant women or those who want to become pregnant within one month or so are encouraged not to get the vaccine, as it contains the live virus and could potentially harm the unborn baby. Pregnant women who have never had the vaccination are encouraged to avoid those who may have contracted rubella.
Symptoms of rubella are often worse in adults and teenagers. Symptoms for older patients may include loss of appetite, swollen lymph nodes, joint pain and inflammation of the eyeballs and the lining surrounding the eyelids.
Recent research studies were done in Monaco to determine age specific rubella in women who are within childbearing age requirements. These studies were also conducted to raise awareness of rubella and to help develop a better vaccination strategy throughout Monaco. From the nearly 1,000 women tested, more than 100 were highly susceptible to rubella due to an absence of an IgG antibody. Results of the tests have prompted scientists to delve even further into the development of rubella in order to attempt to highlight any precursors that may influence the disease.
Public awareness and vaccinations are currently the means by which most countries help to control the disease. Ongoing global support from more highly developed regions helps to fight rubella in underdeveloped countries as well.