There are often mild cold symptoms and an enlargement of the lymph glands, particularly those at the back of the head. Some people develop a mild inflammation of the joints.
No problem arises from this disease, except if a woman develops it during pregnancy. If she does, the virus can cross the placenta and affect the baby.
Should this happen in the early stages of pregnancy, while the organs are developing, severe damage to the foetus can occur. The child may be born blind, deaf, with heart defects or retarded.
To prevent these complications, rubella immunisation has been developed. The vaccine contains live virus, but changed so that it causes little illness yet still stimulates immunity.
Because this virus can still cross the placenta, no woman who receives it should become pregnant for at least three months.
The vaccine is normally given to girls between the ages of 12 and 14. Older women who wish to receive immunisation should discuss the implications with their doctor.