Communicable Diseases

German Measles (Rubella)


  • Rubella (also known as German measles) is a contagious viral infection that occurs most often in children.
  • There is a difference between rubella and measles. 
  • The rubella virus is transmitted by airborne droplets when infected people sneeze or cough. It can also be transmitted from pregnant women to their unborn babies.
  • Its most dangerous complication is the congenital rubella syndrome which infects fetuses.
  • There is no specific treatment for rubella, but the disease is preventable by vaccination.

Rubella is an acute, contagious viral infection distinguished by a red rash and symptoms that last for three days. Rubella is less common than measles. Even though it is a mild infection among children, it has dangerous complications when it infects pregnant women. 

Other names:
German measles,  three-day measles, rubella

It happens when the rubella virus is transmitted to the body. 

  • The rubella virus is transmitted by airborne droplets when infected people sneeze or cough.
  • It can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her fetus through the placenta.
The infectious period is usually 1–5 days after the onset of rash.

Incubation period:
Two-three weeks from being exposed to the rash. The symptoms start appearing afterwards. 

The infected person may not show any symptoms at the beginning, or show very mild symptoms. Then the following symptoms start to appear: 
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Inflamed or red eyes
  • Enlarged and swollen lymph nodes
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Pharyngitis
  • Red rash that affects most people who are infected with rubella. It starts on the face and neck and spreads to the rest of the body
  • Joint pain

When to see a doctor?
When rubella symptoms appear, you must see your doctor. Women who plan on getting pregnant must check their vaccine record to make sure they received the rubella vaccination. 

  • Arthritis in the fingers, wrists and knees in women (they rarely occur in men and children)
  • Encephalitis (very rare)
The most serious complication happens to pregnant women, causing either miscarriages or stillbirths. The virus may be passed to the fetus. It may be infected with the so-called “congenital rubella syndrome” which causes one or all of the following problems:
  • Delayed growth;
  • Cataract;
  • Deafness;
  • Heart defects;
  • Intellectual disabilities.

  • Clinical examination
  • Lab tests: Taking throat or blood sample

There is no specific medication to treat rubella or make the disease disappear faster. In many cases the symptoms are mild; so it is advised to rest and take medicines for fever.

  • The best way to prevent rubella is to receive the triple viral vaccine.
  • Women must receive the vaccine before pregnancy or after giving birth if no antibodies were found;
  • Rubella patients must stay away from healthy individuals to prevent virus transmission.

In general, a person is considered immune to rubella if he has contracted the disease before or took the vaccine in advance. The vaccine is usually given in an aggregated form to immunize against measles, mumps and rubella (triple viral vaccine, known as MMR). Two doses are recommended for children before entering school:
The first dose is given at the age of 12 months and the second at the age of 18 months.

Who shouldn’t take MMR vaccine? 
  • Pregnant women or women planning to become pregnant within the next four weeks; 
  • People with a severe allergy to gelatin or neomycin antibiotic; 
  • People with severe weakness in the immune system or those who take oral steroids. 

  • Were measles and rubella eliminated in Saudi Arabia?
    • They will be completely eliminated by the end of 2020.
  • What is the difference between measles and rubella?
    • Rubella symptoms are usually less severe than measles and go away within 3 days. If a pregnant woman gets rubella during pregnancy, the fetus may be exposed to the so-called congenital rubella syndrome.
  • Is there a link between the MMR vaccine and children's autism?
    • According to studies, there is no link between MMR vaccine and autism in children. 

Clinical Education General Department
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Last Update : 22 July 2020 03:12 AM
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