A Texas Christian University student has been diagnosed with the communicable virus rubella, also called German measles.
It is the first confirmed rubella case in Texas since 2004, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Tarrant County health officials are trying to get in touch with about 70 students who may have had contact with the student, said Russell Jones, the county’s chief epidemiologist.
The virus is especially dangerous for nonimmune pregnant women because it can cause serious birth defects or miscarriages. Rubella can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her child via the bloodstream, according to the Mayo Clinic.
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The virus is preventable, and people who have received a MMR vaccine are immune.
10 days How long a person with rubella is contagious before the onset of the rash. Contagion lasts one to two weeks after the rash is gone.
American children are required to have two shots of measles-mumps-rubella vaccine (MMR) before they start school, but the MMR vaccine is not required for college admission. The state mandates only bacterial meningitis vaccine for college students.
Students from other countries or Americans who were not vaccinated because of parental choices are not immune.
“We are never at 100 percent,” Jones said.
The TCU student with rubella had recently traveled in a region known to have measles cases, health officials said.
The TCU student went to a hospital Sunday with a rash and fever. Public health officials were notified, and an investigation started, Jones said. TCU was notified Monday, and lab tests definitively confirmed rubella on Wednesday.
The student has been released from the hospital and is supposed to stay in confinement until Saturday night when the contagious period will end, Jones said.
Rubella is preventable, and people who have received an MMR vaccine are immune.
“The vaccination rate for [TCU] students is roughly 98 percent,” TCU spokeswoman Holly Ellman wrote in an email. “TCU has a little over 10,000 students enrolled (enrollment numbers are not official until the 12th day of classes), so a little less than 2 percent did not have the MMR vaccination.”
TCU’s student health insurance policy covers a vaccination, Ellman said. Students who have never been vaccinated can go to the Brown-Lupton Health Center Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., for a shot.
Also, people can go to a primary care doctor, or if uninsured can get the shot at a county health department office, Jones said.
The virus is spread by contact through coughing or sneezing. Rubella causes a rash and low fever, but many people with the virus never develop symptoms.
Young children with the virus develop a rash that spreads across the body. Older children and adults may have symptoms of a cold with swollen glands before a rash appears. More commonly young women have aching joints.
Up to 90 percent of babies whose mothers had rubella during the first three months of pregnancy can develop congenital rubella syndrome, which can come with these problems:
▪ Growth issues
▪ Mental issues
▪ Congenital heart defects, and defects in other organs
Source: Mayo Clinic