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Arch Pediatr. 2013 Aug;20(8):858-62. doi: 10.1016/j.arcped.2013.05.010. Epub 2013 Jul 5.

[Epidemic of rubella encephalitis].

[Article in French]

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UR06/11, service de neurologie de l'enfant et de l'adolescent, institut national Mongi Ben Hmida de neurologie, 1007 Tunis, Tunisie.


Rubella is a mild viral illness in children. Rubella encephalitis is an extremely uncommon complication of rubella affecting unvaccinated children, aged between 5 and 14 years. From May to June 2011, we observed 9 cases of rubella encephalitis diagnosed during an epidemic of rubella. All were previously healthy (8 boys and 1 girl). None of them had received rubella vaccine. The mean age was 11.6 years. The onset of neurological symptoms occurred within 1-5 days after the typical rush and was associated with seizures and altered consciousness in all cases. The presence of serum immunoglobulin M antibody against rubella virus was demonstrated in all patients. EEGs showed slow wave activity in all patients and brain MRI was normal in the 9 cases. Full recovery was obtained in all patients. However, 4 of them required intensive care unit referral. Acute encephalitis is an extremely rare complication of rubella. The main neurological findings are headache, ataxia, and hemiplegia. Epileptic seizure and altered consciousness are rarely observed. Rubella encephalitis is generally self-limiting with about 80% recovery rate with no sequelae. However, severe courses have been reported. These cases illustrated the potential severity of rubella and they should be prevented by encouraging widespread early childhood vaccination. In Tunisia, rubella encephalitis has been reported once previously and vaccination against rubella virus has only recently been included in the national vaccination program, prescribed only for adolescent females. Following this rubella epidemic, vaccination strategies in Tunisia have been revised.

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