Rubella is a viral infectious disease against which a mandatory vaccine exists. Although it is relatively mild in most people, the infection is extremely dangerous for pregnant women and their unborn children, often leading to fatal consequences.
WHAT EXACTLY IS RUBELLA?
Infection occurs through air droplets (by releasing the virus when sneezing and coughing) or when sharing utensils and household items. The incubation period (the period from infection to the appearance of symptoms) averages about 14 days. Mostly children are affected. The disease manifests itself with fever, enlarged lymph nodes, conjunctivitis and a rash. Arthritis (painful and swollen joints) is seen in young girls and women. The patient is infected 8 days before and 8 days after the appearance of the rash. An asymptomatic infection is also possible in 25-50% of cases. This means that a person may have no symptoms but is infected and can spread the virus to others.
Most rubella cases are in Africa and Asia, in Europe – Poland (292 cases for 2019) and Ukraine (138 cases for 2019). Sporadic cases have been observed in Bulgaria, but the growth of anti-vax movements may lead to larger outbreaks.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS DURING PREGNANCY?
Congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) occurs in newborns whose mothers have been infected with rubella during pregnancy. The virus is transmitted from the mother’s blood through the placenta, and from there – into the baby’s bloodstream. Rubella affects almost all organs of the developing fetus, and in most cases the infection leads to a miscarriage or a stillbirth.
If the mother is infected before 12 weeks of gestation, babies are born with serious defects: blindness, deafness, congenital heart malformations, intellectual disability, low birth weight. They are also prone to diabetes and hypothyroidism at a later stage.
When infected after 12 weeks of gestation, rubella primarily affects the lungs and babies develop pneumonia.
DIAGNOSIS AND PREVENTION
Rubella is diagnosed by testing for specific IgG and IgM antibodies and isolating the virus from the nasopharynx. Antibody testing also provides information whether the person has immunity to the virus.
All children are subject to mandatory vaccination against rubella. The vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella. 2 doses are given: at 13 months and at 12 years, and the protection rate is over 95%. The vaccine is also suitable for adults who have missed vaccination. If you are planning a pregnancy, you should postpone getting pregnant for 1 month after the vaccine is administered.