Hong Kong Med J 2019 Apr 10;25(2):134-141. Epub 2019 Apr 10.
Department of Pediatric Institute, Kuala Lumpur General Hospital, Malaysia.
Rubella is generally a mild and self-limited disease in children. During pregnancy, rubella can have potentially devastating effects on the developing fetus. Postnatal rubella is transmitted primarily by inhalation of virus-laden airborne droplets or direct contact with infected nasopharyngeal secretions. In susceptible pregnant women, the virus may cross the placenta and spread through the vascular system of the developing fetus. Postnatally acquired rubella typically begins with fever and lymphadenopathy, followed by an erythematous, maculopapular rash. The rash classically begins on the face, spreads cephalocaudally, becomes generalised within 24 hours, and disappears within 3 days. Maternal rubella, especially during early pregnancy, may lead to miscarriage, intrauterine fetal death, premature labour, intrauterine growth retardation, and congenital rubella syndrome. Cataracts, congenital heart defects, and sensorineural deafness are the classic triad of congenital rubella syndrome and they typically occur if the fetal infection occurs in the first 11 weeks of gestation. Laboratory confirmation of rubella virus infection can be based on a positive serological test for rubella-specific immunoglobulin M antibody; a four-fold or greater increase in rubella-specific immunoglobulin G titres between acute and convalescent sera; or detection of rubella virus RNA by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction. Treatment is mainly symptomatic. Universal childhood immunisation and vaccination of all susceptible patients with rubella vaccine to decrease circulation of the virus are cornerstones to prevention of rubella and, more importantly, congenital rubella syndrome.