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A mild, contagious viral illness (Rubeola). German measles is likely to cause serious birth defects to the unborn baby of a pregnant woman who develops the disease in the first 3 or 4 months of pregnancy.

Sex or Age most affected

All ages, but most common in children.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Fever.
  • Muscle aches and stiffness, especially in the neck.
  • Fatigue.
  • Headache.
  • Reddish rash on the head and body after the 2nd or 3rd day. The rash lasts 1 or 2 days.
  • Swollen lymph glands, especially behind the ears and at the back and sides of the neck.
  • Joint pain (adults).


Rubeola virus spreads by person-to-person contact. Patients are contagious from 1 week before the rash appears until 1 week after it fades. Epidemics are most common in springtime – December to March.


  • MMR which is given at approximately 15 months of age, gives protection against Rubeola.
  • Non-pregnant women of childbearing age should be immunized if they have not had German measles or have not been immunized. Pregnancy should be prevented for 3 months following immunization.
  • A person–especially a pregnant woman–who is exposed to German measles, who has not had it or been immunized, should receive a gamma globulin (antibodies) injection. If taken soon after exposure, this may prevent or reduce the severity of the disease.
  • When not to immunize?–A child should not be immunized if he or she has an altered autoimmune system, as with cancer; currently takes cortisone or anticancer drugs; is receiving radiation therapy; or has an illness with fever.

Risk Increases With

  • Poor or improper diet.
  • Previous illness that has lowered resistance.
  • Crowded or unsanitary living conditions.

Diagnostic Measures

  • Observation of symptoms.
  • History and physical exam by a doctor.

Possible Complications

  • Encephalitis (Inflammation of brain). (rare)
  • Thrombocytopenia (low platelets). (rare)
  • Agranulocytosis (low WBCs). (rare)
  • Miscarriage or catastrophic birth defects.

Probable Outcomes

Spontaneous recovery in 1 week in children, longer in adults. Symptoms are usually quite mild.


General Measures

Exposure of any pregnant woman to a case of German Measles. Exposure includes contact with the infected person 1 week prior to, during, or 1 week after the infection. This woman should consult her obstetrician immediately.


For minor discomfort, one may use non-prescription drugs such as acetaminophen. Don’t give aspirin to children. Research shows a link between the use of aspirin in children during a virus illness and the development of Reye’s syndrome (a type of encephalitis).

Contact your Doctor

The following occurs during treatment:

  • High fever.
  • Red eyes.
  • Cough or shortness of breath.
  • Severe headache, drowsiness, lethargy or convulsion.
  • Unusual bleeding occurs 1 to 4 weeks after the illness (bleeding gums, nose, uterus or scattered blood specks on the skin).