By NewsDesk   @bactiman63

Austin Public Health is investigating a confirmed rubella case less than a month after confirming the first measles case in Travis County since 1999 – which is also the last time a Travis County resident had rubella. Nationwide, there are typically less than ten rubella cases annually, most of which are associated with international travel.

Rubella is covered by the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. While Austin/Travis County has a relatively high vaccination rate, there are pockets of communities where vaccination opt-outs bring herd immunity to an unstable status.

Those who are greatly impacted by rubella are children and pregnant women and their unborn child:

  • Unvaccinated children who attend school with an infected child are required by state law to stay home for 21 days following contact.
  • Unvaccinated pregnant women have a high risk of congenital rubella syndrome. Congenital rubella syndrome can lead to birth defects including deafness, cataracts, heart defects, intellectual disabilities, or liver and spleen damage. There is also an increased risk of miscarriage or stillbirth.

“Along with the requirement to keep your unvaccinated child home for weeks, there are significant health risks to being exposed to rubella,” said Dr. Mark Escott, interim health authority and medical director for Austin Public Health. “Please, check if you and your family are up-to-date on vaccinations to prevent the comeback of these previously eliminated diseases.”

Rubella is less contagious than measles, but the virus has similar symptoms and is contracted the same way. Rubella is spread mainly through droplets that come from a sick person’s nose and mouth when they cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can travel up to 6 feet and land on people nearby or inhaled into the lungs. It also can spread when you touch virus-contaminated objects, such as a doorknob and then touch your face.

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Rubella symptoms include a red rash, low-grade fever, headache, mild pink eye, swollen lymph nodes, cough or runny nose. Please stay home if you experience any of these symptoms and call your medical provider.

Children should receive their first dose of MMR vaccine between 12 and 15 months of age, another dose at 4-6 years of age. MMR vaccine is generally first given at 12 months of age in the United States but is sometimes recommended for children as young as six months of age who are traveling outside the United States or could be infected in an outbreak.