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Congenital Rubella Syndrome

Congenital Rubella Syndrome is a reportable disease in Oklahoma.  Pregnant women infected with rubella virus run the risk of harmful effects to their growing fetus.  Congenital rubella is caused by the harmful action of the rubella virus on the fetus at an important time in growth.  The most important time is the first trimester (the first 3 months of a pregnancy).  After the fourth month, the mother’s rubella infection is less likely to harm the growing fetus.  The presence of the rubella vaccine has greatly decreased the rate of congenital rubella.

It is advised that all women be tested to see if they are immune to rubella before they become pregnant so they may receive the vaccine if needed.  Getting the vaccine will prevent rubella in women so their future children will be protected from congenital rubella syndrome.

Women who missed being tested prior to getting pregnant are normally tested during an early prenatal visit.  If a pregnant woman is not immune, she should avoid anyone who has symptoms of this illness.  There is no helpful treatment for rubella during pregnancy, nor is there a successful way to prevent rubella in a woman who has not received the vaccine and has been in contact with the illness.

Rubella symptoms in an infant include: cloudy corneas or white pupils, deafness, developmental delay, excessive sleepiness, irritability, low birth weight, cognitive or intellectual disabilities, seizures, small head size, and skin rash at birth.

Lab tests, including blood and urine tests, are done to check for the virus.  Because congenital rubella causes damage to the fetus, there is no exact treatment for the infant.  Care involves proper treatment of affected systems under the care of your doctor.  The outcome for a child with congenital rubella depends on how serious the condition may be.  Heart defects can often be fixed. Damage to the nervous system is permanent.  The best way to prevent Congenital Rubella Syndrome is the rubella vaccine.

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