Rubella (german Measles)

Dr. Ira Shah
Consultant Pediatrician, B.J.Wadia Hospital for Children, Mumbai, India
First Created: 01/02/2001  Last Updated: 01/02/2001

Patient Education

What is German measles?

German measles or rubella is an acute viral infection that leads to mild rash and enlarged lymph nodes. It is caused by the rubella virus.

How does German measles spread?

Rubella virus is transmitted by coughing and sneezing from an infected person. It is prevented by the rubella vaccine or MMR vaccine.

What are the symptoms of rubella?

Rubella in children and adults is a mild disease. After the virus enters the body, the symptoms start after 14 to 21 days. Initially, the patients may have malaise, headache, and fever. After 10 to 14 days a rash first appears on the face which then spreads down to the rest of the body and fades away in the next 3 to 4 days. Occasionally the lymph nodes in the neck may become enlarged and tender.

Rubella infection in pregnant women is a cause of concern as the virus may cross into the womb and affect the baby leading to birth defects. If the infection occurs in the first 3 months of pregnancy, the chances of infection of the fetus are over 80 percent. If the infection occurs in the 2nd or 3rd 3 months of pregnancy, the infection of the fetus is less.

Classical Rubella infection acquired in the womb may lead to cataracts, deafness, and heart disease in the baby. In addition, there may be a failure to gain adequate weight, small eyes, small head, and delayed development.

What is the treatment of rubella?

There is no specific cure. Calamine lotion and antihistamines are useful for relieving the itching associated with the rash. Painkillers may be required for the painful lymph nodes. Prevention of rubella infection during pregnancy is essential to prevent rubella in the baby.

How is rubella prevented?

German measles can be prevented by the rubella vaccine or MMR vaccine. All adolescent girls who have not got a rubella infection should receive the rubella vaccine as a precaution against rubella during pregnancy. All married women who have not received the vaccine and not got a rubella infection should receive the rubella vaccine. However, they should not conceive for 3 months after getting the vaccine.


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