Rubella (German Measles)

Fever, rash and swollen lymph glands are symptoms of the contagious viral disease Rubella otherwise commonly known as German Measles. It can cause major congenital abnormalities in the fetus if contracted in the first 10 weeks of gestation.

If contracted during early pregnancy, it infects the placenta and developing fetus. If maternal infection occurs after the first trimester, the severity of fetal damage decreases considerably.

Fetal defects are rare after week 16 if a pregnant woman becomes infected. Up to week 20 however, sensorineural hearing deficit (deafness) and retinopathy (blindness) may occur.

The incubation period is 12-23 days with an average of 18 days. A person is infectious approximately 7 days prior to the onset of symptoms and continues until 4 days after the onset of the rash.

Even though vaccination rates in Australia have risen with a gradual decline in Australians contracting Rubella, it is critical that a woman contemplating pregnancy should have her Rubella immunity checked by her GP and be vaccinated if necessary. Preventing congenital infection relies on maintaining high levels of immunity to Rubella in the general population.

Important points:

  • Check immunity or be vaccinated before becoming pregnant
  • Pregnant women to avoid contact with any person with confirmed or suspected Rubella.

Antenatal Screening
At the first antenatal visit, routine testing for Rubella immunity is performed to identify at risk women and to enable postnatal vaccination to protect future pregnancies. Obviously it is wise to have this test performed when you are thinking of becoming pregnant.