Rubella, sometimes called German measles, is a viral disease that usually causes mild symptoms if contracted in childhood. However, a rubella infection is cause for great concern if contracted by a woman during pregnancy. Rubella during pregnancy is called congenital rubella syndrome and can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, or birth abnormalities. The best way to avoid a rubella infection is to get vaccinated against the disease, and women of childbearing age should consult their doctors about the rubella vaccine. Other ways to reduce the risk of rubella infection include avoiding those suffering from rubella and those who have been exposed to the disease.
Rubella infection spreads through direct contact with the saliva, mucous or other secretions of infected persons, and it can take 12-23 days before symptoms appear. Common symptoms of rubella include fever, sore throat, runny nose, swollen glands, and a red rash consisting of tiny spots. An infected person can transmit the virus seven days before displaying any signs of rubella infection, and seven days after symptoms have disappeared. About 25-50% of those infected do not develop any noticeable symptoms, but can still transmit the disease to others.
Avoiding rubella infection is extremely important for pregnant women and women trying to conceive. It is recommended that a woman gets a blood test to determine if she has immunity against rubella before trying to conceive, and if she does not have immunity, she should get vaccinated before getting pregnant. After receiving the vaccine, a three-month waiting period is advised before attempting to conceive. Pregnant women should not be vaccinated against rubella during pregnancy, but people in regular contact with non-immunized pregnant women should be vaccinated to reduce the possibility of infection.
In communities where rubella is circulating, those without immunity to the disease should avoid or limit activities that include exposure to large groups of people, for example public transportation, sporting activities, school, and work. To avoid rubella infection, it is also recommended to stay at least 3 feet (1 m) away from others in public areas and to avoid anyone who is experiencing rubella symptoms or has been in contact with someone suffering from the disease. General precautions like avoiding unnecessary travel, washing and sanitizing hands frequently, and not sharing drinks, lipstick, cigarettes and other items that may transmit the rubella virus can also reduce the risk of infection. Pregnant women who have been exposed to the rubella virus, and do not know if they are immune, should contact a doctor.