Dumaguing: Getting to know German measles

WITH the Dengvaxia issue still very much in the news, plus the increasing incidence of measles which started in Zamboanga and now has spread to the Visayas the MMR vaccine has come into the fore. Indeed, the Measles mumps rubella vaccine is again hugging the headlines with mothers rethinking their collective decisions as to whether they will volunteer to have their children vaccinated or not. From the medical field, pediatricians as a rule would suggest and even encourage parents to have their kids inoculated. Of course, most of us, parents, doctors and patients know what measles is-tigdas in Filipino, kamuras in Ilocano, and mumps- beke in Filipino, pangal in Ilocano- but not many know about German measles. What’s so German about it?

Rubella is the other name of German measles (rubeola is measles, and please do not call it Filipino measles, the word rubeola or measles belongs to the whole world! Like measles, it is a viral infection, spread mainly by breathing in droplets of moisture that has been coughed out or sneezed out in the air by sick persons, close contact with the secretions of an infected person is possible transmission mode. A person is contagious one week before the rash appears and one week after the rash disappears.

German measles is less contagious than measles, and many children may never be infected. However I among pregnant women, especially in their first trimester, German measles is serious because of the great possibility of carrying giving birth to a still born or with birth defects especially of the heart- the so-called PDA- patent ductus arteriosus, an abnormal connection between the pulmonary artery and the aorta. Springtime or the months of February to May is the most common time for outbreaks. A single attack of German measles gives the person lifelong immunity.

Symptoms begin 14 to 21 days after exposure. In children, the illness begins with a 1-5 days of feeling unwell, with swollen lymph nodes in the neck and back of the head, especially the ears- post auricular lymphadenopathy. These signs and symptoms may not be seen in teenagers and adults. A mild rash develops and last for 3-4 days- from the face, neck and quickly spreads to the trunk, arms and legs. A mild reddening of the skin occurs particularly in the face, with a rose-colored spot appearing in the roof of the mouth. Most children with German measles recover fully. Some teenage boys or young males may experience discomfort or mild pains in their testicles. In women, one third would suffer or complain of joint pains. There are a few who develop otitis media (luga in Filipino) and sometimes the much-dreaded encephalitis.

Worldwide, German measles vaccine is one of the routine immunizations of children, with the vaccine injected into the muscle in combination of measles and mumps, hence, MMR vaccine.

Be that as it may, it is still parents’ decision.
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