Rubella (German measles)

Rubella (German measles) is a viral infection which is usually very mild in children; adults may be more unwell. The rash commonly starts on the face and behind the ears. The glands in the neck and at the base of the skull may be enlarged. There may also be a fever, headache and sore eyes (conjunctivitis). Adults and adolescents may also get pain in the joints.

It is spread by droplet infection, ie coughs and sneezes. The incubation period is 14-21 days and an infected individual is infectious from 5 days before the rash appears to 5 days after.

The illness is of little relevance to the individual who usually recovers quickly. If however, it is transmitted to a pregnant woman who is not immune to the virus, it can have a devastating effect on the developing baby. It can cause deafness, blindness, severe learning disability, heart defects and death.

Immunisation is vital to prevent the spread of this infection. All pregnant women are tested in early pregnancy to determine whether or not they are immune to the infection. Women planning pregnancy would be sensible to have a blood test to check their immunity before they get pregnant. Immunisation can then be offered. It is advised that women do not get pregnant for 3 months after immunisation although babies born to women who have inadvertently been immunised during pregnancy do not seem to have had any rubella related problems.

Further information

MMR The Facts

This article published on
28 November 2005

Next review date 11/1/2013



Areaof the body

Immune system

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