Rubella an invisible danger

Inner Wheel members and Rotarians at a Rubella vaccination camp in a school.
Inner Wheel members and Rotarians at a Rubella vaccination camp in a school.

As chairperson of Inner Wheel District 323, when I visited a school for the hearing and speech impaired about 15 years ago, the correspondent explained to me the dangers of Rubella and the need for vaccination. She estimated that the mothers of 85 per cent of the children in this or any other special school in India would have been affected by Rubella during pregnancy. “You should take up this cause to prevent deafness in newborns. A single vaccine safeguards the foetus through the woman’s child-bearing age, that is, for the next 20 years,” she said.

This was an eye opener to me. We, the Inner Wheel members, started working towards creating awareness about the dangers of rubella and the need for immunisation. We organise awareness seminars in schools, colleges and communities with a team of doctors, headed by gynaecologist Dr Jayshree Gajaraj, who enlightens the girls/women on the subject.

This is followed up with immunisation under the supervision of the medical team. We recently organised one such camp for the students of Nazareth School in Chennai. Rotary clubs Madras Esplanade, Chennai Galaxy and their respective Inner Wheel clubs partnered this project where 500 out of 1,500 students from classes 9-12 were vaccinated. Some of them had been immunised earlier and therefore, were not included for this camp.

The vaccines are procured from Serum Institute of India at a subsidised cost, and an immunisation certificate is given. The Rotary clubs support us and the Rotaract clubs are our key to reach colleges. Many other Rotary districts are also promoting Rubella awareness. D 3131 is immunising about one lakh or more girls every year.

The Kerala government has made it mandatory for all girls above 15 years to be vaccinated and this is done free. Some wedding halls, for instance, the Oppiliappan temple in Kumbakonam (Tamil Nadu) insist that the bride produce a Rubella immunisation certificate in order to book their hall!

It is important to promote this immunisation drive on a war footing because while Polio immunisation reduces disability, it can increase due to Rubella which is a totally preventable disease.

 

A student being given a shot of Rubella vaccine.
A student being given a shot of Rubella vaccine.

Rubella or German Measles

Dr Jayshree Gajraj

Rubella is a disease caused by the virus, Rubella. It is also known as German measles because the disease was first described by German physicians in the mid-18th century. Many people do not even realise they have Rubella, because the manifestation of the disease is very mild.

It can affect anyone, young or old, male or female. Most often young children transmit the disease to adults. Transmitted by air, it spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The disease is most contagious when the person has a rash. But people without symptoms can also spread Rubella.

Symptoms

A person with Rubella has a mild fever (below 39 deg C/or 102.2 deg F). Mild rashes appear on the face, neck and spread to the rest of the body, but disappears in 3 to 4 days. The patient feels tired and worn out. Many patients recover without treatment and any major complications.

If a pregnant woman is exposed to the virus, it severely affects the foetus, causing congenital malformations such as defective heart, corneal blindness, hearing loss, physical handicaps and mental retardation. That’s why it is known as an ‘invisible danger.’ Immunising girls and women with a single dose of rubella vaccine prevents risk of the disease in their child-bearing age.

Vaccines available for Rubella

Generally the vaccine is administered as the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) to children in a series of three doses at the age of one. A booster dose after 15 years is essential. In adults a single dose of is effective for a minimum period of 20 years.

Who should not be given the vaccine

• Pregnant women.

• The woman should not get pregnant for 1 month after receiving the vaccine.

• Children less than 12 months.

• Patients receiving cancer medicine.

For more info about Rubella check out: www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/parent-questions.html

(The writer is spouse of PRID P T Prabhakar and member of Inner Wheel Club of Madras Central.)

Pictures by Jaishree

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