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Rubella Test

A rubella blood test detects antibodies that are made by the immune system to help kill the rubella virus. These antibodies remain in the bloodstream for years. The presence of certain antibodies means a recent infection, a past infection, or that you have been vaccinated against the disease.

Rubella (also called German measles or 3-day measles) usually does not cause long-term problems. But a woman infected with the rubella virus during pregnancy can transmit the disease to her baby (fetus). And serious birth defects called congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) could develop, especially during the first trimester. Birth defects of CRS include cataracts and other eye problems, hearing impairment, and heart disease. Miscarriage and stillbirth are also possible consequences for pregnant women. The vaccination to prevent rubella protects against these complications.

A rubella test is usually done for a woman who is or wants to become pregnant to determine whether she is at risk for rubella. Several laboratory methods can be used to detect rubella antibodies in the blood. The most commonly used method is the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA, EIA).

Why It Is Done

A test for rubella is done to find out if:

  • A woman who is or wants to become pregnant is immune to rubella.
  • A recent infection was caused by the rubella virus. The presence of IgM antibodies means a current or recent infection.
  • A person has been vaccinated against rubella. The presence of IgG antibodies means immunity received through either vaccination or a past infection.
  • Health professionals who are in contact with pregnant women have had rubella. A health professional who has not had rubella may need to be vaccinated to prevent the risk of spreading rubella to a pregnant woman.

Some babies born with birth defects may be tested for congenital rubella.

How To Prepare

No special preparation is required before having this test.

How It Is Done

The health professional taking a sample of your blood will:

  • Wrap an elastic band around your upper arm to stop the flow of blood. This makes the veins below the band larger so it is easier to put a needle into the vein.
  • Clean the needle site with alcohol.
  • Put the needle into the vein. More than one needle stick may be needed.
  • Attach a tube to the needle to fill it with blood.
  • Remove the band from your arm when enough blood is collected.
  • Put a gauze pad or cotton ball over the needle site as the needle is removed.
  • Put pressure on the site and then put on a bandage.

How It Feels

The blood sample is taken from a vein in your arm. An elastic band is wrapped around your upper arm. It may feel tight. You may feel nothing at all from the needle, or you may feel a quick sting or pinch.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 31, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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