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What is German Measles?

Nicole Madison
Updated May 17, 2024
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The German measles, medically known as rubella, is a contagious illness. Caused by a virus and often referred to as three-day measles, rubella causes symptoms that are similar to the flu. Its symptoms include a low-grade fever, a runny nose, headache, reddened eyes, and pain in the muscles or joints. A person with this condition will typically develop a rash, which is often one of the first clues that the person has the measles instead of some other type of illness.

When a person has rubella, signs of the illness may begin with a fever that doesn't rise above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The fever may last for just one or two days. A person may develop swollen lymph nodes, especially behind the ears and in the neck. He may also develop a rash on his face, which then goes on to spread to the rest of the body. The facial rash usually clears as it spreads to other parts of the body.

The rash of German measles is typically pink or light red. The rash causes itching and often lasts for about three days. When the rash clears up, the patient may notice that his skin sheds in very small flakes where the rash covered it.

In most cases, German measles is a mild illness. In fact, some people contract it yet remain completely unaware that they have it. In the past, this illness most frequently affected children between five and nine years old. Today, it is more likely to affect young adults who have not been immunized, instead of children.

Although German measles most often presents as a mild illness, it can be dangerous for unborn children. When a woman contracts rubella during pregnancy, her unborn baby may develop congenital rubella syndrome. An in utero infection with this illness can have serious effects on an unborn child. It can cause growth retardation and deformities that affect the heart and the eyes. It can cause a child to be born deaf or cause problems with the baby's spleen and liver. It can even cause problems with a baby's bone marrow.

Rubella is caused by a virus and can be spread through coughs and sneezes, much like the common cold. It can be prevented through vaccination. If a person contracts this illness, he is contagious for about one week before he develops a rash and for about one week thereafter. Once the illness develops, it must usually run its course, as antibiotics do not work to fight the virus. Often, treatment focuses on rest and keeping the patient comfortable.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGeek writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.
Discussion Comments
By Lostnfound — On Mar 18, 2014

I remember the rubella vaccine was not nearly as painful as the red measles vaccine. That one *hurt.* The German measles vaccine was not painful at all and I don't remember having any side effects from it.

I know many women who got a rubella booster when they decided to plan for a pregnancy. They either hadn't been immunized, or wanted to make sure their vaccines were up to date. It's not a bad idea.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGeek writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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