Rubella: The ‘Little Red’ Terror

    Rubella: The ‘Little Red’ Terror


    The name “rubella” is derived from the Latin, meaning ”little red”. Rubella, also known as German measles and the three-day measles, is a contagious viral infection that affects both children and adults.

    While the disease is generally mild in children, it can cause disastrous consequences in pregnant women. Up to 90% of infants born to mothers who had rubella in the first 11 weeks of pregnancy develop congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). Children born with CRS may suffer from one or more of these complications:

    • Growth retardation
    • Cataracts
    • Deafness
    • Congenital heart defects
    • Defects in other organs
    • Mental retardation

    There is also a possibility that rubella could lead to the death of an unborn child.

    Also, some adult women who get rubella may also experience arthritis in the fingers, wrists and knees, which can last up to one month. Otitis media and inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) may occur, but such cases are rare.

    Know the symptoms

    Signs and symptoms generally appear two to three weeks after infection and usually last about 2-3 days.

    They may include:

    • Mild fevers
    • Headaches
    • Runny nose
    • Inflamed, red eyes
    • Enlarged and tender lymph nodes located at the base of the skull, the back of the neck and behind the ears
    • A fine, pink rash on the face which quickly spreads to involve to the torso, arms and legs, before disappearing in the same sequence
    • Aching joints, especially in young women

    How rubella spreads

    The rubella virus is transmitted by airborne droplets when infected people sneeze or cough.

    It can also spread through direct contact with an infected person’s mucus or phlegm.

    Furthermore, the virus can pass from a pregnant woman to her unborn child via the bloodstream.

    An infected person can be contagious 10 days before the onset of the rash and will continue to be contagious even 1-2 weeks after the rash has disappeared.