Rubella (German Measles) in Children
What is rubella (German measles)?
Rubella is a viral illness that causes a mild fever and a skin rash. It is also called
German Measles, but is not the same virus that causes rubeola, or measles. It is spread
from one child to another through direct contact with fluid from the nose and throat.
Infants and children who get rubella usually only have a mild case of the rash and some
respiratory symptoms. However, a fetus that gets rubella from his or her mother while
she is pregnant, can have severe birth defects and consequences. It is also very dangerous
for pregnant women to come in contact with someone who has rubella because it may
cause a miscarriage.
What causes rubella?
Rubella is caused by a virus called a Rubivirus. It can be spread from a pregnant mother to the unborn child, or from person-to-person
by coming in contact with secretions from an infected person. It is most prevalent
in late winter and early spring. Rubella is preventable by proper immunization with
the rubella vaccine.
What are the symptoms of rubella?
The disease itself does not have any long-term consequences except to infected unborn
children. The biggest concern is to prevent an infected child from infecting a pregnant
woman. It may take between 14 to 21 days for a child to develop signs of rubella after
coming in contact with the disease. It is important to know that a child is most contagious
when the rash is erupting. However, the child may be contagious beginning seven days
before the onset of the rash and five to seven days after the rash has appeared. Therefore,
children may pass the infection to others before they even know they have the disease.
The following are the most common symptoms of rubella. However, each child may experience
symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
The symptoms of rubella may resemble other skin conditions or medical problems. Always see
your child's health care provider for a diagnosis.
How is rubella diagnosed?
Rubella is usually diagnosed based on a medical history and physical examination of
your child. The lesions of rubella are unique, and usually the diagnosis can be made
on physical examination. In addition, your child's doctor may order blood or urine
tests to confirm the diagnosis.
What is the treatment for rubella?
Specific treatment for rubella will be determined by your child's health care provider based
Your child's age, overall health, and medical history
How sick he or she is
Your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
How long the condition is expected to last
Your opinion or preference
The goal of treatment for rubella is to help decrease the severity of the symptoms.
Since it is a viral infection, there is no cure for rubella. Treatment may include:
Increased fluid intake
How is rubella prevented?
Since the introduction of rubella vaccine, the incidence of rubella has decreased
substantially. Most cases today occur in adults who have not been vaccinated. The
rubella vaccine is usually given in combination with the measles and mumps vaccine.
It is called the MMR vaccine. It is usually given when the child is age 12 to 15 months and
then again between age 4 and 6. In addition, girls should have completed rubella vaccination
before they reach childbearing age.
Other ways to prevent the spread of rubella:
Children should not attend school for seven days after the onset of the rash. Always
consult your child's doctor for advice.
Children who are born with rubella are considered contagious for the first year of
Make sure that all of your child's contacts have been properly immunized.