What in the words are Rubeola and Rubella?

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

SUMMER time is almost here and I've thought of writing something about two of the most common communicable diseases among children that thrive very well in this season – Rubeola and Rubella.

Forgive the tongue-twisting jargons, rubeola is an extremely contagious disease caused by the virus "paramyxoviridae morbilivirus."

On the other hand, rubella, which is caused by rubella virus, is the milder version of rubeola.


Both rubeola and rubella are called "measles." However, rubella is more popularly known as the 'German Measles" in honor of the German physicians who first discovered this communicable pathogen in the eighteenth century.

Both measles are generally transmitted from an infected person to another via droplet spread or direct contact with infected person.

Literatures share that in some instances, airborne transmission is possible.

Basically, the sources of infection are the secretions coming out of the nose and throat of an infected person.

Typically, the incubation period or the time required for the disease to present symptoms to a newly infected person is between 10 to 12 days and then fever appears. After which, about two days later, the person presents generalized rashes.

According to Dr. Gerard Tortora, a doctorate in microbiology, measles manifests symptoms similar to a common cold.

In cases of rubeola, "a macular rash (a small raised spots) appears, beginning on the face and spreading to the trunk and extremities."

He adds: "Lesions of the oral cavity include 'Koplik's spots,' small red spots with central blue-white specks, on the oral mucosa opposite the molars."

He emphasizes that, "the presence of Koplik's spots is a diagnostic indicator of the disease."

Likewise, since rubella is the milder version of rubeola, it can sometimes go unnoticed.

"A macular rash of small red spots and a mild fever are the usual symptoms," explains Tortora.

However, rubella must not be taken lightly especially during pregnancy as severe birth defects are associated with maternal infections during the first trimester of pregnancy. The unborn child may suffer blindness, heart defects, mental retardation and even death.

Similarly, measles is extremely dangerous a disease for the infant and old very old. Its complications include middle ear infections, pneumonia and in worst cases, encephalitis or inflammation of a certain part of the nervous system. Tortora informs that survivors of measles-induced encephalitis suffer permanent brain damage.

Fortunately, vaccines are available for both forms of measles. Sadly, there are conditions that prevent one from receiving the vaccine.

For instance, the measles vaccine should be given earliest at 9 to 12 months of age. This leaves infants less than 9 months vulnerable.

Also, pregnant women are discouraged from receiving this vaccine as it may do more harm than good both to the mother and fetus. Take note that vaccines are actually weakened live viruses.

Meanwhile, as preventive measures, parents or caregivers of infected children should avoid exposing them to other children. They should also impose social isolation from the time of diagnosis until five to seven days after onset of the rash. Lastly, they must disinfect all soiled items or articles used by the infected child and practice meticulous handwashing to prevent spread of infection.

I also think parents and caregivers should be on the lookout as summer these times are different brought about by climate change: a confluence of rain shower at one end and long days of sunshine on the other.

Data from the National Epidemiology Center- Measles Surveillance Report of the Department of Health share that there were 3, 734 confirmed measles cases from January 1 to February 22 of this year. Do not be part of the statistics!

Sources: Community Health Nursing and Community Development; Brunner & Suddarth's Medical-Surgical Nursing; Microbiology: An Introduction; and Public Health Nursing in the Philippines.

[Email: polo.journalist@gmail.com]

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on April 01, 2014.


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