Childhood diseases: Overview on German measles

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German measles or rubella is a viral infection with a distinctive reddened rash on the body. Apart from the rashes, fever and swollen lymph nodes occur. The infection spreads from one individual to another via exposure to droplets from sneezing or coughing. It also spreads via sharing of food or beverages with an infected individual.

The condition is rare in developed countries after the introduction of the rubella vaccine. On the other hand, German measles is still known to occur in other parts of the world. The condition typically affects children particularly between 5-9 years old but can also affect adults.

It is a mild infection that improves within a week even without treatment. Nevertheless, it can be serious among pregnant women since it can cause congenital rubella syndrome in the fetus.

What are the characteristics of German measles?

The indications of German measles are often mild that they are barely evident. Once the symptoms manifest, they typically develop within 2-3 weeks after the initial exposure to the virus. In most cases, they often last for 3-6 days and might include the following:

  • Pinkish or reddish rash that starts in the face and spreads down to the rest of the body
  • Runny or stuffed nose
    German measles
    The condition typically affects children particularly between 5-9 years old but can also affect adults.
  • Mild fever usually below 102 degrees F
  • Swollen or tender lymph nodes
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Reddened or inflamed eyes

Even though these symptoms might not seem serious, a doctor should be consulted if German measles is suspected. This is vital for pregnant women or a possible pregnancy is suspected.

What is the cause?

German measles is triggered by the rubella virus which is a highly contagious virus that is capable of spreading via close contact or via the air. It can spread from one individual to another via exposure to droplets from a sneeze or cough.

Those who have the disease are highly contagious from a week before the rash manifests until up to 2 weeks after the rash vanishes. A child or adult can spread the virus before they even know that they have the disease.


In most cases of German measles, they can be treated at home. The doctor will recommend getting enough rest and acetaminophen to alleviate the discomfort from the fever and aches. It is also advised to stay home from school or work to prevent the spread of the virus.


Vaccination is considered as a benign and effective way to avert German measles. The rubella vaccine is usually mixed with vaccinations for mumps and measles as well as varicella.

The vaccines are administered to children between 12 and 15 months old. A booster shot is required once the child reaches 4-6 years old. Since the vaccines include minimal doses of the virus, mild fever and rash can develop.

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