German Measles Rubella

What is German Measles?

Rubella is an infection caused by the rubella virus and is sometimes known as German measles. Rubella is a mild disease in most people; however, it can cause Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS), a serious condition that can occur in infants born to women who become infected with rubella during their pregnancy.

How do you get German Measles?

Rubella can be transmitted from person to person through direct contact with an infected person's nose and throat secretions or by breathing in airborne respiratory droplets created by infected persons when they cough or sneeze. When a pregnant woman becomes infected with rubella, the virus can also cross the placenta and infect the unborn child. 

Susceptibility and Resistance

Anyone who has not had a vaccination for rubella or has not had rubella in the past is susceptible. People who have had rubella in the past usually become permanently immune. Infants born to immune mothers are ordinarily protected from the virus for 6 to 9 months after birth, depending on the amount of antibodies the baby has acquired from the mother.

Incubation Period

The incubation period for German Measles is 14-21 days.

What are the Symptoms?

Children usually show few or no symptoms. Adults may experience a rash lasting up to 3 days. Up the half the infected people have no rash at all. Other symptoms can include fever, headache, conjunctivitis (inflammation of the membranes of the eye), mild cold-like symptoms, swollen lymph nodes, leukopenia and thrombocytopenia (lowered  white blood cell and platelet count, respectively), joint pain, and in rare cases, encephalitis (brain inflammation).

The most serious complications of rubella are caused by infection of the unborn child during early pregnancy (Congenital Rubella Syndrome). Infection by the virus causes miscarriages, fetal deaths/stillbirths, and severe birth defects, the most common of which are cataracts, heart defects, malformations of major organ systems and hearing impairment.

Preventative Measures

The best preventive measure against the rubella virus is vaccination. Travellers should ensure they have been vaccinated or are immune for rubella before international travel. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the use of the rubella vaccine in all countries where Congenital Rubella Syndrome is considered a public health priority.


There is no specific antiviral treatment for rubella except to treat symptoms.


Where Does It Commonly Occur?

Rubella is a disease that occurs worldwide. Before the introduction of a vaccine against rubella, widespread epidemics occurred every 6 to 9 years in the United States and every 3 to 5 years in Europe. Vaccination programs have stopped all transmission in the Western Hemisphere. Outbreaks still occur, usually in developing countries where the vaccine is not available.