What is Rubella?

Rubella is a contagious viral infection. Because rubella can present with little or no symptoms, it can easily go undetected. If a woman contracts rubella during the first trimester of her pregnancy, the virus may be transmitted to the baby and result in serious birth defects or even stillbirth.

How is Rubella transmitted?

Rubella most frequently occurs in spring and winter. The virus is transmitted through the respiratory tract. An infected person can spread the disease to others during the period from 5 days before to 7 days after onset of skin rash.

Who can get Rubella?

Any person, regardless of age and sex, can get rubella. Although most people who have been infected with rubella develop immunity against the disease, reinfection may still occur in a few.

Incubation Period

From contracting the virus to onset of skin rash, the incubation period ranges from 14 to 21 days with an average of 18 days.

Signs and Symptoms

  • General Malaise: From 1 to 7 days before onset of rash, the infected person will experience symptoms such as headache, fever, coughing and throat irritation etc.
  • Skin Rash: Tiny pink-red skin rash first appears on the face or behind the ears, and then spreads over the body. The rash lasts from 1 to 5 days.
  • Swollen Lymph Glands: Usually appearing at the back of the ears or neck.
  • Joint Pain: This complication tends to affect young women and can persist for 14 days.
  • Complications: Rarely, acute encephalitis may result.

How would Rubella affect your offsprings

Rubella can be a serious disease for pregnant women. If a woman is infected during the first trimester of her pregnancy, the virus can be transmitted through the placenta to the baby, causing severe birth defects such as deafness, blindness, heart defects, mental retardation or even stillbirth. It is estimated that 10-25% of women of childbearing age who are not immune to rubella are susceptible to infection.

Any woman in early pregnancy who suspects rubella infection should undergo a blood test. If found to be infected, she should consult her doctor to decide whether or not to continue the pregnancy.

Pre-pregnancy Preparation

Women who have not had rubella and are not sure whether they are immune to the disease can undergo a pre-pregnancy blood test and check-up to determine their immune status when they are planning to have children. Women who do not have immunity against rubella should be vaccinated to safeguard the health of their babies.

According to the recommendation of the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in 2001, pregnancy must be avoided within 1 month after rubella vaccination. Therefore couples should use effective contraception during this period.

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