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Nasty Infectious Diseases You Want To Avoid - German Measles

Updated on December 31, 2008

This is the common name for the viral infection rubella that does not closely resemble measles, although it is also the primary cause for a pronounced rash on the trunk, face, and limbs. Rubella is the cause of a relatively mild ailment in children and a somewhat more serious one in adults, is truly severe only when expectant women are infected in the early months of the pregnancy. During this period there exists a possibility that the virus will be passed onto the fetus, which can cause a series of severe birth defects which are known by the name: rubella syndrome.

Rubella was once spread around the globe to almost every single nation on earth, but it is now nowhere near as prevalent in many developed countries due to a series of comprehensive vaccination programs. The United States has attempted to eradicate rubella by vaccinating all children in schools, bringing down the infection rate to a bare minute fraction of what it once was.

Cause – The rubella virus is aerosolized and can be very widely spread when an infected individual coughs or sneezes and it can also be communicated on common household contaminated objects, where the virus can survive for limited periods of time. The virus has been found to infect only humans.

Symptoms - The infection primarily affects young people between the ages of six and thirteen with a rash which begins on the face and soon develops downward to arms and legs. The rash may spread together to form big patches, but it does not cause an itch. The rash lasts for about a week, with a minor fever and lymph nodes that appear engorged. Some children may present with a mild sore throat, cough, or runny nose prior to the time that the rash appears. In some cases the entire infection does not cause any symptoms although the individuals are infectious to others. Youths and adults may have considerably more serious symptoms, including fever, body aches, eye infections, headaches, or a runny nose a few days before the rash appears. The glands in the neck and behind the ear can swell approximately one week before the rash. The virus may be communicable about a week before the symptoms appear until a day or two after the symptoms disappear. The period of incubation ranges from thirteen to twenty-four days, but the average is around seventeen days.

Diagnosis - A laboratory test for rubella is of primary importance, since the symptoms of the disease can be mild to the point where they are not clearly identified. Blood tests can discern rubella immunity or a current rubella infection. If an individual has already received the rubella vaccine, the blood test will then clearly indicate that the patient is immune. Pregnant women need to have a full rubella immunity test at the primary prenatal visit and if this shows that they are not immune, they must have the rubella vaccine in the hospital immediately post-delivery.

Treatment - There is no acknowledged treatment for rubella, although acetaminophen has proven to be helpful in minimizing the fever which often accompanies the disease.


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    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      Well, you've heard of Typhoid Mary, here is Rubella Shirley! :)

    • Shirley Anderson profile image

      Shirley Anderson 9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I am a carrier. My poor kid sister got measles every time I was exposed but I've never had them. When I was a teenager, my mom used to send me to babysit kids with measles trying to make sure that I did get them so that I didn't run the risk of getting them later on in life while pregnant. I was a popular sitter when measles was going through the school.