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Congenital Rubella Syndrome

(CRS)

Definition

Rubella is an infection caused by a virus. If a pregnant woman becomes infected, she can pass the infection to the unborn baby. This infection can lead to severe birth defects, miscarriage, or stillbirth. The health problems due to the infection are called congenital rubella syndrome.

Rubella Rash

Rubella
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Causes    TOP

Congenital rubella syndrome is caused by an infection of the rubella virus. The virus first infects the mother. It then passes to the baby during pregnancy. The virus interrupts the development of the baby.

Risk Factors    TOP

There is a vaccination for rubella. If the mother has not had this vaccination, the baby has an increased risk of infection.

The infection is most dangerous to the baby in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Pregnancy in First Trimester

9th week fetus
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Symptoms    TOP

Symptoms can vary depending on the timing of the infection. Some problems caused by congenital rubella include:

  • Slowing of fetal growth
  • Small head circumference
  • Hearing loss
  • Dental problems and other bone problems
  • Abnormal smallness of one or both eyes
  • Enlargement of liver and spleen, including liver damage
  • Neurological abnormalities including developmental delay

Diagnosis    TOP

You will be asked about your child's symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Other tests may include:

  • Blood tests—to look for evidence of recent infection with rubella virus
  • Imaging tests—to look for problems in the brain

Treatment    TOP

Treatment will depend on the results of the infection. Certain eye and heart defects may be treated with surgery shortly after birth. Early intervention programs may also help babies with hearing loss, vision loss, or intellectual disability. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plans for your child.

Prevention    TOP

Rubella vaccination for the mother can prevent congenital rubella syndrome. Screening for immunity may be done at premarital, preconception, or prenatal medical exams.

Infants with congenital rubella can spread the infection. Anyone taking care of your infant should be vaccinated against rubella.

RESOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
http://www.cdc.gov
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
http://familydoctor.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Paediatric Society
http://www.cps.ca

References:

Rubella. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116928/Rubella. Updated April 15, 2016. Accessed June 6, 2016.
McLean H, Redd S, et al. Chapter 15: Congenital rubella syndrome. VPD Surveillance Manual\. 5th ed. 2012. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed June 6, 2016.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Kari Kassir, MD
Last Updated: 5/11/2013

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This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

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