Rubella (German measles) is a relatively well-known infectious disease typically occurring in childhood, which is very rare in developed countries rare thanks to vaccination.


Rubella is a viral infectious disease. Rubella virus is transmitted among people by droplet infection, i.e. by cough or sneezing. Unfortunately, transmission from a pregnant woman to fetus is also possible, with a devastating effect on the embryonic tissue.


The symptoms occur within 2-3 weeks after the infection. First symptoms may be similar to common cold including fever, fatigue, joint and muscle pain and cough. These symptoms are followed by itchy rash on the face, which gradually spreads to the trunk and limbs. The rash lasts only a few days. Fairly typical is enlargement of cervical lymph nodes (typically behind the ears).


The older is the person at the time of infection, the more serious is the course of rubella. The infection is especially dangerous for pregnant women and the virus easily penetrates into fetal tissues. Rubella virus acts as a potent teratogen and causes serious deformation of the fetus. After birth, the child suffers from a congenital rubella syndrome, which includes abnormally small head (microcephaly), congenital heart defects, mental retardation, impaired vision, hearing loss and other serious disorders of vital organs. Infection during the early period of pregnancy has a high risk of miscarriage.


The suspicion may grow in a patient with clinical symptoms. The diagnosis can be confirmed serologically by finding antibodies against rubella that emerge after a relatively short period of infection.


There is an effective vaccine against rubella, which has practically eradicated the infection in countries with effective vaccination program.


Rubella is like most other viral infections untreatable. Rubella infection of a pregnant woman in the first trimester is an indication for abortion.

Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Sources: basic text sources