Rubella or German measles is a highly contagious viral disease occurring mainly in childhood, but also can occur in adults. The disease is charecterised by pink-red rashes. When an infected person sneezes or coughs, the virus spreads through droplets of saliva or mucus inhaled. The symptoms are similar to measles, but it is very mild in effect. It effects the skin, respiratory system and lymph glands in the neck.
The disease begins with swelling of the glands in the neck and soon a pink-red rash appears on the face and later spreads to other parts of the body. This is followed by mild fever and other symptoms. The rashes are not itchy and usually they disappear completely after 4-5 days. But the infection is contagious from a week before the rash appears to seven days after it goes away.
German measles is not dangerous for young children but it can cause high risk to a developing foetus in the early stages (first trimester) of pregnancy if the mother catches the infection. It can lead to miscarriages, stillbirth and severe birth defects such as cardiac defects, deafness, mental impairment and cataract.
Diagnosis is done usually on the basis of symptoms. The doctors may take blood samples to confirm the diagnosis so as not to mistake the infection with measles which has similar symptoms.
No specific treatment is required for this disease. Treatment includes isolation until three or four after rash disappears plus mild pain killers for pain and fever and bed rest. Plenty of fluids along with a normal diet is recommended. Pregnant women should avoid contact with infected persons.
Rubella can be prevented by immunization. The rubella vaccine is part of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine series given to children beginning at 12 months of age and again at 4-6 years. This vaccine gives lifelong immunity against rubella and an attack of the infection also gives life long immunity. Any women who has not had the disease in childhood and who is considering pregnancy should be vaccinated.
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