Rubella: Make Sure Your Child Is Fully Immunized

Jan 14, 2008
One of the best ways to protect children from
vaccine-preventable diseases is to vaccinate them on time.
Check your child's medical records to see whether he or she
has already received the MMR vaccine (for measles, mumps,
and rubella).

Rubella is often called "German measles," although it is
not really measles and is caused by a different virus
called Rubivirus. Like measles, rubella also causes a rash,
which is fainter than the measles rash and lasts 2 or 3
days. A person with rubella might also have a slight fever
and feel general discomfort. However abosut 50% of persons
who have rubella do not have any symptoms.

Rubella is especially dangerous for pregnant women. If a
woman gets rubella during pregnancy, especially during the
early stages of pregnancy, it can lead to fetal death,
premature delivery, and congenital rubella syndrome (CRS),
serious birth defects—which may include deafness,
cataracts, heart defects, mental retardation, or liver and
spleen damage. During an epidemic of rubella in 1964–1965
in the United States there were about 12.5 million cases of
rubella and 20,000 cases of congenital rubella syndrome
(CRS) leading to more than 11,250 fetal deaths, 2,100
neonatal deaths, 11,600 babies born deaf, 3,580 babies born
blind and 1,800 babies born mentally retarded.

Rubella can be prevented by immunization. The vaccine
against rubella was licensed in 1969, and after that, the
number of cases in the United States declined rapidly.
Today, because so many people are vaccinated, rubella is no
longer endemic and cases of rubella are rare in the United
States. However, rubella can be brought into the United
States at any time by worldwide travelers from countries
where the disease is still present. Outbreaks can occur in
groups of susceptible individuals who are not immunized.
Two rubella outbreaks occurred in 1990-1991 in California
and Pennsylvania and resulted in the birth of 58 infants
with CRS. The best way to protect children and adults from
this serious disease is to maintain high immunization
levels.

The Best Protection Against Rubella – the MMR Vaccine

The rubella vaccine is usually administered as MMR, a
combination vaccine that provides protection against three
viral diseases, measles, mumps, and rubella. The MMR
vaccine is strongly endorsed by medical and public health
experts as safe and effective. Two doses are recommended
for children—the first dose at 12 to 15 months of age, and
the second dose before entering school at 4 to 6 years old.

Any unvaccinated woman who might become pregnant should be
vaccinated unless a blood test shows she is immune to
rubella.

See If Your Child's MMR Vaccine Is Due

• Check your child's immunization record,
• Contact their healthcare provider, or
• Visit the immunization scheduler for newborn to
6-year-old children.

Paying for the MMR Vaccine

Health insurance usually covers all or most of the cost of
the MMR vaccine. Children 18 years and younger may be
eligible to get free vaccines through the Vaccines for
Children (VFC) program. To find out more about the VFC
program, contact your state VFC Coordinator. To learn more
about the VFC program, visit the VFC Web site or ask your
child's healthcare provider.

Some Adults Need MMR Vaccine Too!

Complications from rubella are not common, but they tend to
occur more often in adults than children and may include
encephalitis (brain infection), pain and/or swellinsg of
the joints in women, and pain and or swelling of the
testicles.

Anyone born during or after 1957 who has not had rubella or
has not been vaccinated should receive one dose of MMR
vaccine. Any unvaccinated woman who might become pregnant
should be vaccinated unless a blood test shows she is
immune to rubella

Source: CDC