German measles - Rubella

German measles is a viral disease which lasts approximately for one week.


Rubella is a contagious viral disease that is usually mild in nature when contracted in childhood. But, it can have serious consequences for the fetus, in the form of birth defects. A mass vaccination has helped eradicate the disease. In case of infection, it can go unnoticed in about 1 in 2 cases. In the other half of the cases, a rash appears about 2-3 weeks after contact with the virus.

The rubella virus

The rubella virus causes a contagious, immunising, generally benign eruption which is sometimes not even noticed. German measles generally occurs between the age of 5 and 9.


The symptoms of rubella include a red rash on the neck and head in the form of small pale spots that are separated from each other; sometimes, an increase in the volume of the lymph nodes in the neck.


The diagnosis of rubella is made by physical examination and questioning about symptoms of the disease. Blood tests will detect rubella antibodies in the body. A serological analysis will be done for pregnant women in early pregnancy, but also in the case of contact with a person who has a consistent rash. If the test is positive, an amniocentesis will be performed after a period of five weeks to test for the virus in the fetus. A monthly ultrasound will be continued until the end of pregnancy to look for abnormalities.


The child remains contagious 8 days after the appearance of the lesions on the skin. The incubation of rubella is 15 days before the beginning of the first signs of disease. The diagnosis is difficult because the eruption is not very characteristic. Treatment consists in decreasing the fever.


There is no specific treatment for rubella. The major problem is the contracting of rubella in early pregnancy. An abortion can be performed if the infection occurs before 13 weeks of gestation.

Risks for a pregnant woman

A child affected by German measles should not approach a pregnant woman. An expectant mother infected by the rubella virus during the first quarter of her pregnancy is likely to have a baby with neurological, ocular, cardiac or hearing impairments.

94% of expectant mothers are protected by antibodies which they produced during their childhood after having contracted the virus or been vaccinated.

The non-immunised expectant mothers may be affected by German measles and transmit it to the baby via the placenta, thus causing a risk of malformations.

The appearance of very moderate demonstrations caused by the rubella Virus can have repercussions on the foetus and cause foetal malformations the gravity of which and frequency depend on the terms of the infection. Any infection of the mother by the rubella virus can contaminate the embryo, and this until approximately the 20th week of pregnancy.

This contamination causes a spontaneous abortion or malformation of various organs, heart, brain, hearing, sight. At birth the infant remains contagious for 6 months to 1 year:

Make sure the expectant mother is protected against German measles

  • The presence of antibodies means that the mother-to-be is immunised.
  • Rubella can cause malformations of the foetus.
  • Advise the mothers-to-be to carry out a blood assat when they decide to have a baby and to vaccinate them at this time if there is no antibody, the absence of antibody meaning that the test is negative.
  • A negative test in the course of pregnancy, showing the absence of antibodies, means that a vaccination after the labour should be considered.
  • If a blood assay reveals that the mother-to-be contacted German measles during pregnancy, a special monitoring is put in place.

Consult a doctor in the event of the appearance of an eruption during pregnancy in a woman who is not vaccinated.
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