Pop quiz: What vaccine-preventable disease, whose name means “little red”, can cause severe birth defects if pregnant women become infected? If you answered rubella, also known as German measles, you are right.
It’s okay if you didn’t know, since rubella is mostly a distant memory in the United States thanks to a comprehensive and effective immunization program that’s been in place for decades.
Sadly that’s not true everywhere.
Each year there are thousands of rubella cases around the world, a number that’s made all the more tragic when there is a safe, effective vaccine. And while the number of cases has fallen, the threat remains. Rubella is spread in the same way as the common cold, through sneezing and coughing. In children rubella is typically a mild disease that may include a rash, fever and sore throat. Adults can get rubella as well—usually they experience symptoms such as rash, headache, pink eye, joint pain and general discomfort.