Women who are planning to start a family have been advised to ensure they are protected against rubella.
Women who are planning to start a family have been advised to ensure they are protected against rubella. It follows a Japanese study which identified 31 cases of birth defects caused by rubella, also known as German measles. In each case, the mother had been vaccinated against the disease but had since lost her immunity. The finding has sparked concerns that British women could also be putting their children at risk. GPs are supposed to screen women of child-bearing age to ensure they are fully protected against rubella. Single vaccineThis is because most women who were born before 1988 only received one jab against the disease. While most women will still be protected against the disease, there is a risk that some will not. “It is up to the GP to screen anyone who is thinking of starting a family for protection”Department of Health spokeswoman Since 1988, most British children have received two jabs. They are vaccinated with the three-in-one jab for mumps, measles and rubella as infants and receive a booster before they start school. This provides a high level of protection against these diseases. Rubella, also known as German measles, causes a fairly trivial illness in children but can be devastating if it affects a woman in the early months of pregnancy. There is a chance the virus will infect the foetus and cause a range of severe birth defects, known as rubella syndrome. Scientists in Japan say they have identified 31 cases of birth defects caused by rubella in women who contracted the disease despite being vaccinated as children. In one case, a 34-year-old pregnant woman contracted rubella from one of her own children, according to Chemistry & Industry magazine. She had been vaccinated at the age of 14, but still carried the virus. It was believed she caught the infection from her second child, who had not been vaccinated and was diagnosed with rubella. When the woman’s third child was born, he had difficulty breathing and showed signs of infection. He had an odd facial appearance, clouded corneas, a squint and cataracts. Blood tests confirmed congenital rubella syndrome. The scientists said the findings highlighted the importance of ensuring women were fully protected against the disease. “Women who have had only one injection may not be properly protected,” said Shigetaka Katow, one of the researchers. But they added that it also showed how important it was for children to be vaccinated against the disease. The Department of Health said GPs were supposed to screen women of child-bearing age for immunity to rubella. “It is up to the GP to screen anyone who is thinking of starting a family for protection,” a spokeswoman said. (Source: BBC, Monday, 1 September, 2003, 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK )