The screening of Rubella in women during pregnancy will end in England in April 2016. This measure is also being considered by rest of the UK. This is according to Public Health England who reported that the success of MMR vaccination meant that the infection was now incredibly rare and the screening was causing unnecessary stress.
Rubella infection during pregnancy can lead to brain damage and other health problems for the baby in the womb. The viral infection which is also known as German measles is mild, causing a rash and fever. But it becomes very serious in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, when it can lead to sight and hearing problems, brain damage and heart defects.
Screening during pregnancy
During pregnancy, women are offered a blood test to determine whether they are immune to the virus. In 2012, the United Kingdom National Screening Committee recommended that rubella screening should stop because levels of the virus were so low that the World Health Organization classed rubella as eliminated in the UK. Public Health England (PHE) said that high uptake of the MMR jab, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) was allowing it to make the decision.
Dr Anne Mackie, the director of screening programmes at PHE, said that the decision to end rubella susceptibility screening in pregnancy in England is based on a rigorous assessment of the evidence and expert clinical advice. Screening for rubella in pregnancy does not give any protection to the unborn baby in that pregnancy. The best preventative measure a woman can take to protect herself from rubella is to ensure she is immunised with the MMR vaccine before she gets pregnant.
The charity Sense, set up by parents affected by rubella, welcomed the news. Joff McGill, from the charity, said: It is a cause for celebration that in the UK there is no endemic rubella and congenital rubella syndrome births are now rare thanks to the childhood immunisation programme and high levels of MMR uptake. Stopping rubella screening in pregnancy will not lead to an increase in cases of congenital rubella syndrome. The only way that will happen is if there are significant rubella outbreaks, and we can ensure that doesn't happen by continued high levels of uptake of MMR.