German measles - Rubella

Rubella shattered me. It affected the development of my son’s heart. Just a little rash and joint pain I had in my first trimester when I was pregnant for him has brought this traumatic condition my way…,’ Mrs John kept lamenting as she recounted her ordeal to her friend.
Calm down and talk to me’, her friend consoled.
‘Okay when I got to the hospital, I told them how healthy my baby was at birth. He was fun to be with until just recently he began to struggle with his breath. Eating became a problem and his weight went down by the day. After taking his vital signs, I was referred to a paediatric cardiologist,’ narrated Mrs John to her friend and neighbour, Mama Tinu.
At the office of the cardiologist, he asked me series of questions as he checked on my baby. Questions like, ‘‘did you receive antenatal care when you were pregnant for him? If yes, when did you get registered?’’ He said he needed to be sure that I was neither deficient in folic acid nor had any record of rubella during my pregnancy.’
 ‘I told him that I registered for antenatal care after I noticed some rashes on my skin, it came alongside painful joints and swollen jaws in my first trimester. I recalled how the doctor diagnosed German measles and the treatment I got afterwards to him. I never had rubella and as for folic acid, I started taking folic acid before I conceived him as advised by my elder sister’.
The cardiologist disclosed that he suspects that my son has a congenital heart defect which he also thinks was due to rubella. He said that German measles, also known as rubella, is a contagious disease caused by a virus. It is transmitted in the air and can be contracted by inhaling droplets from the cough or catarrh of a victim or by being around a victim for some time.
According to him, symptoms of rubella include swollen glands around the head and neck, raised temperature, cough, cold-like symptoms, painful joints (especially in adults) and a pinkish red rash. The rash may last for several weeks but other symptoms last for few days. People with rubella are contagious from the first week before the rash appears to first week after the rash disappears. The most contagious period is when the rash is breaking forth.
Although a mild disease, rubella can have an adverse effect when it is contracted by a pregnant woman in her first trimester. It could lead to a miscarriage or series of birth defects collectively called congenital rubella syndrome in the new born. Congenital rubella syndrome includes:
      ·        Cataracts
·     ·        Deafness
      ·         Heart defect
      ·         Brain damage
This explanation meant that my unborn children are at risk too. I wanted to know what could be done to save this from repeating itself.
Thank God all hope is not lost. He said that rubella is preventable. Vaccination with MMR (Measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine or MMRV (Measles, mumps, rubella and varicella) vaccine is a safe and effective way of preventing rubella. Though the vaccine is taken at childhood, it can also be taken at least one month before a woman gets pregnant.
‘It’s unfortunate that due to carelessness, my innocent son will have to suffer to a heart defect. I won’t allow such to repeat itself. Vaccination is the key’, she concluded.

By Ifeyinwa Ugo-Amadi


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