Austin Public Health is investigating a confirmed rubella case, the first of the contagious viral infection in Travis County since 1999, according to a Jan. 16 news release from the health agency.
The investigation comes just weeks after the health agency investigated the county’s first measles case in decades. Both rubella and measles are diseases preventable by vaccines, according to Austin Public Health, and are covered by the measles, mumps and rubella, or MMR, vaccine.
Rubella symptoms include a red rash, headache, mild pink eye, swollen lymph nodes, cough or runny nose, according to Austin Public Health. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website has photos and more information on rubella symptoms for concerned residents.
The MMR vaccine is required by the Texas Department of State Health Services for students in K-12th grade, though exemptions are granted on an individual basis for "medical contraindications, active duty with the armed forces of the United States, and reasons of conscience, including a religious belief," according to the agency's website. Two doses are required, with the first dose received on or after a child's first birthday. As previously reported by Community Impact Newspaper, the conscientious exemption rate for vaccinations at Austin ISD is consistently above the statewide conscientious exemption rate each year.
Unvaccinated children who attend the same school as a child infected with rubella are required by Texas law to stay at home for 21 days following confirmed contact, according to Austin Public Health.
Pregnant women who have not been vaccinated against rubella are at a higher risk to contract congenital rubella syndrome, which can lead to birth defects and increased risk of miscarriage or stillbirth, Austin Public Health stated in its Jan. 16 release.
“Along with the requirement to keep your unvaccinated child home for weeks, there are significant health risks to being exposed to rubella,” said Dr. Mark Escott, interim health authority and medical director for Austin Public Health in the Jan. 16 news release. “Please, check if you and your family are up-to-date on vaccinations to prevent the comeback of these previously eliminated diseases.”
This rubella case comes on the heels of another confirmed case of a vaccine-preventable disease in Austin. On Jan. 8, Austin Public Health closed its investigation into a measles case in an Austin resident.
According to Austin Public Health, it has been two decades since Travis County saw cases of either rubella or measles. The health agency stated there typically fewer than 10 rubella cases annually nationwide.