RUBELLA (German Measles)

So the word on the streets here in Bali has it that rubella is the flavor of the month in several schools and childcare facilities.

This disease has largely been eliminated in developing countries due to ongoing vaccination programs. Here in Bali where there are significant numbers of people choosing not to vaccinate, as well as the fact the MMR (mumps/measles/rubella) vaccine has been very difficult to come by here for several years now, vaccine preventable disease is starting to make the rounds again.


What is rubella?

Rubella is an infectious disease caused by a virus. It is also known as German measles or three-day measles, but it is not the same disease as measles. Rubella is often mild with half of people not realizing that they are sick.

Young children who get rubella usually have a mild illness, with symptoms that can include a low-grade fever, sore throat, and a rash that starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. Older children and adults are more likely to have a headache, pinkeye, and general discomfort before the rash appears.

Rubella is usually spread to others through sneezing or coughing. In young children, rubella is usually mild, with symptoms that include a low-grade fever, sore throat, and a rash that starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. Older children and adults are more likely to experience headache, pink eye, and general discomfort before the rash appears. Aching joints occur in many cases, especially among young women. The most serious  complication from rubella infection is the harm it can cause to a pregnant woman’s unborn baby.


Who gets rubella?

Anyone who is not immune from either previous rubella infection or from vaccination can get rubella. If an unvaccinated pregnant woman gets infected with rubella virus it can lead to miscarriage, or her baby can die before or just after birth. She may pass the virus to her unborn baby who can develop serious birth defects, such as heart problems, loss of hearing and eyesight, intellectual disability, and liver or spleen damage.

Serious birth defects are more common if a woman is infected early in her pregnancy, especially in the first 12 weeks. Infections in women who are more than 20 weeks pregnant rarely cause problems.


Why is it called rubella or German Measles?

The name “rubella” is from Latin and means “little red (rash)”. German physicians first described the illness as a specific disease in 1814 resulting in the name “German measles.”


How is rubella treated?

There is no specific treatment for Rubella, other than to keep the patient cool and comfortable and manage the symptoms. Paracetamol may be given for fever or aches and pains. Calamine based lotions or oatmeal baths may help with the skin irritation. Extra fluids and rest will also help.

If you are unsure if the rash is really rubella, a simple blood test will confirm this. It may also be wise to do an antibody test several weeks after the illness to see if antibodies have formed, which will give you future protection. (One episode of rubella illness should protect you for life).


How can we prevent rubella?

Rubella is preventable with the rubella vaccine with a single dose being more than 95% effective. Usually it is given to children in combination with the measles vaccine and mumps vaccine, known as the MMR vaccine at 12 months of age, and again at 4-5 years.

Any woman who is planning to become pregnant should be tested for antibodies to make sure that she is immune to    rubella. If she has no antibody protection, she may be offered the vaccine.

All women who are already pregnant should be tested for antibodies, and if they are negative, extra precaution should be taken in the first 3 months of pregnancy. (Women who are already pregnant may not receive the vaccine).


Kim Patra is a qualified Midwife  &  Nurse Practioner who has been living and working in  Bali for over 30 years. She now runs her own Private Practice  & Mothers & Babies center at her Community Health Care office in  Sanur.


Kim is happy to discuss any health concerns that you have and may be contacted via email at, or office phone   085105-775666 or  Bali



Copyright © 2017 Kim Patra

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