German measles (rubella) FAQs

German measles (rubella) FAQs

What is the difference between German measles and measles?

Regular measles (rubeola) is not the same as German measles (rubella), although the two illnesses do share similar characteristics – namely a red rash on the skin. Rubella is caused by a different virus and is considered a milder illness (not as severe) that only lasts between 3 days and a week. Rubeola (measles) can become a serious illness lasting several days and cause other more serious and / permanent complications.

Is German measles itchy?

The rash that appears on the skin when infected with German measles it not usually itchy. As the rash begins to heal, however, skin may be shed (and resemble skin that peels after sunburn). In some instances, the rash can become itchy, but still clears up within 3 to 5 days.

Can German measles be prevented?

The MMR vaccination (measles, mumps and rubella vaccine) is the safest and most effective way of preventing German measles.  Some countries offer the MMRV vaccine, which in addition to protecting against measles, mumps and rubella, can also help prevent varicella (the virus that causes chickenpox).

Each vaccine contains small doses of the virus, which can sometimes cause mild fevers and rashes. These are easily cleared on their own. Adverse or systemic reactions have been noted in some people. Severe allergic reactions are very rare.

A vaccination usually isn’t recommended for those with an impaired immune system (due to another illness or condition), are pregnant (there is a risk to the unborn baby during pregnancy) or are planning a pregnancy within a month of a vaccination (in this case a woman will be advised to wait at least 28 days before trying to conceive).

Typically given to children between twelve and fifteen months, booster shots are also given again when children reach the age of between 4 and 6. If a pregnant woman has no record available of 2 doses of the MMR vaccine, she may be advised to have the vaccine soon after her 6-week postnatal check-up following the birth of her baby.

It may not necessarily prevent an infection, but ensuring that you are immune to the virus before you travel to countries where the infection is widespread can help reduce the risk of getting or spreading the illness. Your physician can advise you on whether or not your destination currently has a high rate of rubella, and also confirm your immunity with blood or saliva tests.

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