Joff McGill the leader of the Rubella Network at Sense UK spoke via video to delegates at the Rubella Network in Australia.

What is Rubella?

Rubella is a mild and preventable disease caused by a virus. If you catch it you may feel unwell, with swollen glands, a slight temperature, or a sore throat. But some people have no symptoms at all and so are unaware that they may be infectious and may be passing on the disease. Rubella is very serious if a pregnant woman catches it in the early stages of her pregnancy because it can profoundly damage the development of her unborn child. Ensuring that children are routinely vaccinated helps to protect pregnant women and their babies.

Congenital Rubella Syndrome
A baby born affected by rubella is said to have Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CS). Many will have hearing loss, cataracts, other eye conditions, and heart problems that require significant hospital treatment and will affect the child through their life. A baby’s brain can also be affected. The risk of CRS affecting the baby and the extent of the birth impairments it causes depends on how early in the pregnancy the mother is infected. The earlier in the pregnancy, the virus is contracted, the greater the risks.

Vaccination success
Rubella and CRS are now rare in England and Australia. The introduction of the mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) vaccine has been instrumental in almost stamping out rubella and CRS. Once a person has had rubella or received a rubella vaccine they should develop immunity against further infection.

There have been occasional large outbreaks of rubella. In 1996 an outbreak occurred resulting in around 4,000 cases in England and Wales. Twelve babies were born with CRS. This is why children should be vaccinated against it.

German Measles
German measles is a common term used to describe rubella.
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