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Rubella Virus Definition
An illness resulting from INFECTION with the rubella virus, a member of the Rubivirus viral family. Rubella, also called three-day MEASLES or German measles (because German researchers were the first to identify rubella as an illness separate from measles), is a mild course of illness in most people. However, the infection can cause serious BIRTH DEFECTS, collectively called congenital rubella syndrome, in a developing FETUS when a pregnant woman becomes infected during the first trimester of PREGNANCY.
Rubella is fairly contagious and spreads primarily through droplet inhalation (airborne transmission). The INCUBATION PERIOD is 14 to 21 days, after which most people experience low-grade FEVER; LYMPHADENOPATHY (swollen LYMPH nodes); and a red, slightly bumpy RASH that begins on the face and spreads to cover the entire body. Adults who get rubella often have PAIN and inflammation in the joints that continues for up to six weeks after other symptoms abate. Infection conveys lifelong IMMUNITY.
Rubella is among the diseases for which children in the United States receive routine IMMUNIZATION. This is particularly important because of the risk rubella infection presents to the unborn fetus. Congenital rubella syndrome affects about 90 percent of babies born to women who contract rubella during the first trimester of pregnancy. The syndrome’s key features are
- HEARING LOSS, often profound (deafness)
- cataracts, GLAUCOMA, and RETINOPATHY
- pulmonary artery stenosis, ventral septal defect (VSD), patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), and other heart anomalies
- impaired immune function
- early childhood development of type 1 DIABETES
Congenital rubella syndrome often causes lifelong health problems for affected children.