Home Columns Asmau Ahmad on; RUBELLA NOT RUBEOLA


by hr

Written by Asmau Ahmad

During the election holiday nothing came to my mind but VACCINES. My mind kept running vaccines, vaccines, prevention, vaccines . . . .

As the new government ushers, it should also be a new dawn of vaccines, and when I thought of vaccines many diseases come up in my mind especially the viral infections, well then I decided to talk on RUBELLA.

Rubella is an acute (severe), contagious viral infection. While the illness is generally mild in children, it has serious consequences in pregnant women causing fetal death or congenital defects known as congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). It is also called German measles or three-day measles, is a contagious viral infection best known by its distinctive red rash. Many people do not differentiate between rubella and measles. RUBEOLA (ordinary measles) is not the same as rubella though the two illnesses do share some characteristics, including the red rash. However, rubella is caused by a different virus than measles (rubeola), and is neither as infectious nor usually as severe as measles.



The cause of rubella is a virus that’s pass from person to person. It can spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes or it can spread by direct contact with an infected person’s respiratory secretions, such as mucus. It can also be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her unborn child through the bloodstream. A person with rubella is contagious from 10 days before the onset of the rash until about one or two weeks after the rash disappears. An infected person can spread the illness before the person realizes he or she has it.


The signs and symptoms of rubella are often so mild they’re difficult to notice, especially in children. If signs and symptoms do occur, they generally appear between two and three weeks after exposure to the virus. They typically last about two to three days and may include:

  • Mild fever
  • Headache
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Inflamed, red eyes
  • Enlarged, tender lymph nodes (swollen hard bumps) at the base of the skull, the back of the neck and behind the ears
  • A  pink rash that begins on the face and quickly spreads to the trunk and then the arms and legs, before disappearing in the same sequence
  • Aching joints, arthritis especially in young women

Once a person is infected, the virus spreads throughout the body in about 5-7 days. Symptoms usually appear 2 to 3 weeks after exposure. The most infectious period is usually 1–5 days after the appearance of the rash. When a woman is infected with the rubella virus early in pregnancy, she has a 90% chance of passing the virus on to her fetus. This can cause miscarriage, stillbirth or severe birth defects known as congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). Infants with CRS may excrete the virus for a year or more.


No treatment will shorten the course of rubella infection, and symptoms are so mild that treatment usually isn’t necessary. However, doctors often recommend isolation from others especially pregnant women during the infectious period. Support of an infant born with congenital rubella syndrome varies depending on the extent of the infant’s problems. Children with multiple complications may require early treatment from a team of specialists.

Rubella vaccines are also available which are administered to children and pregnant women.

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