Vaccinate Your Baby

Rubella

Click on the photo above to open the Rubella page from the Vaccine-Preventable Diseases eBook!

The Disease

Rubella, also known as German measles, is a contagious disease caused by a virus. It is spread when an infected person coughs and sneezes. In children, the infection is usually mild with fever and rash. However, for some people, rubella can be serious. Adults tend to have more complications, including sore, swollen joints and, less commonly, arthritis, especially in women.

Rubella is most dangerous for pregnant women and their babies. If a pregnant women is infected with the disease it can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, or birth defects such as heart problems, hearing and vision loss, intellectual disabilities (also known as mental retardation), and liver or spleen damage. This group of health problems is called Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS). Approximately 85 out of 100 babies born to mothers who had rubella in the first trimester of her pregnancy will have a birth defect.

The Statistics

The last large U.S. epidemic of rubella occurred between 1964 and 1965. During the epidemic, there were 12.5 million cases of rubella, which resulted in 11,250 deaths of unborn babies and 2,100 deaths of newborns. Approximately, 20,000 babies were born with CRS.

The Vaccine

The MMR vaccine protects against rubella, measles and mumps. For the best protection, children need two doses of MMR. The first dose is scheduled to be given between 12-15 months of age and the second dose between 4-6 years of age. Children need to be vaccinated on time to be protected from rubella and to also protect others, especially pregnant women, from the disease. A combination vaccine which protects against measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (MMRV) is also available.

Anyone born during or after 1957 who has not had rubella or been vaccinated against the disease should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine.

Pregnant women should not get the rubella vaccine. They should wait until after they have given birth to get vaccinated. Women thinking about getting pregnant should get a blood test to make certain they are already immune to rubella. If they are not immune, they should be vaccinated and then wait at least four weeks before getting pregnant.

Additional Resources

 

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