RUBELLA

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What is it

Rubella, also known as German measles, is a contagious viral infection that predominantly affects children and young adults.1 Complications of rubella are typically mild; however there can be dangerous consequences for babies born to women infected during pregnancy.1

Who is at risk

Risk of getting rubella in Canada is very low; however cases may occur when travellers who are not vaccinated bring rubella into Canada.2

You are at risk of getting rubella if you have:

  • Never had rubella
  • Not been fully immunized

What are the symptoms

Symptoms typically develop within 14 to 17 days after exposure, and may take up to 21 days.3 Some people may not show any symptoms.3

In children, symptoms may include:3

  • Rash that starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body (lasts 3 days)
  • A low grade fever (below 39oC)
  • Nausea
  • Conjunctivitis

In older children and adults, symptoms may include:3

  • Swollen glands behind the ears and neck
  • Cold-like symptoms before the rash appears
  • Aching joints

How is it spread

Rubella is a highly contagious disease caused by the rubella virus.4

Its route of spread includes:4

  • Direct contact with an infected person
  • Through the air via coughs, sneezes or talks

Rubella is highly contagious; people can pass on the infection to others about 1 week before the person develops a rash,4 and for the first 4 days after the rash appear.4

A pregnant woman infected with rubella has a 90% chance of transmitting the disease to her unborn baby.4

How is it prevented

Immunization with the rubella vaccine is the best way to protect you and your children.5,6,7,8 The vaccine is given in 2 doses, usually in childhood, and provides life-time protection.5,6,7,8,9

How is it treated

See your healthcare provider immediately if symptoms of rubella develops.3 There is no specific treatment for rubella as it is caused by a virus rather than bacteria.10 Antibiotics cannot treat the infection, and your healthcare provider typically let the infection run its course in mild cases.10 Sick children and adults should stay home until 4 days after the rash appears to prevent the spread of rubella.10 Other cautionary methods include:10

  • Avoid close contact with other household members
  • Cover coughs, sneezes with a tissue or their forearm
  • Practice hand hygiene

REFERENCES

  1. WHO. Rubella Fact Sheet. (2017) http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs367/en/
  2. Government of Canada. Risks of Rubella. (2015) https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/rubella/risks-rubella.html
  3. Government of Canada. Symptoms of Rubella. (2015) https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/rubella/symptoms-rubella.html
  4. Government of Canada. Causes of Rubella. (2015) https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/rubella/causes-rubella.html
  5. GlaxoSmithKline Priorix-Tetra MMRV PM. (2017) https://pdf.hres.ca/dpd_pm/00039228.PDF
  6. Merck ProQuad MMRV PM. (2017) https://pdf.hres.ca/dpd_pm/00037770.PDF
  7. GlaxoSmithKline Priorix MMR PM. (2015) https://pdf.hres.ca/dpd_pm/00032128.PDF
  8. Merck M-M-R II PM. (2017) https://pdf.hres.ca/dpd_pm/00038147.PDF
  9. Government of Canada. Prevention of Rubella. (2015) https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/rubella/prevention-rubella.html
  10. Government of Canada. Treatment of Rubella. (2015) https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/rubella/treatment-rubella.html