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About rubella or German measles

Rubella or German measles is caused by rubella virus. This virus spreads through personal contact, coughing and sneezing.

Rubella is very uncommon in Australia because most children are immunised against it. If rubella does occur, it's most common in children under 13 years.

Symptoms of rubella

The rubella virus usually infects children 14-21 days before any symptoms appear.

Early rubella symptoms look like the symptoms of a mild cold. They can include fever, sore throat and swollen lymph glands in the neck.

After 2-3 days, a rash appears. It has pale pink spots that turn white when you press them. The rash starts on the face and spreads to the chest, stomach and back. Gradually these spots merge to form patches. The rash lasts 3-5 days before going away.

Children with rubella are infectious for five days before and at least four days after the rash appears.

Does my child need to see a doctor about rubella?

Yes. You should speak to your GP if you're worried your child has rubella.

Children who have a rubella infection must be kept away from pregnant women. If a pregnant woman catches rubella, it can cause abnormalities in her unborn baby. If you're pregnant and think you've come into contact with rubella, talk to your GP, obstetrician or midwife.

Treatment for rubella

There is no medication to treat rubella, but there are things you can do to ease your child's symptoms:

  • Give your child paracetamol in recommended doses to help lower his fever and reduce discomfort.
  • Encourage your child to drink plenty of water and get lots of rest.

Children who have rubella should not go to child care, preschool or school until a GP says they're OK to go.

Prevention of rubella

The best way to avoid rubella is to have your child immunised. As part of the Australian National Immunisation Program (NIP), your child will get two free rubella immunisations. Your child needs both doses for the immunisation to work.

Your child will get rubella immunisations at:

  • 12 months, as part of the MMR vaccine, which protects your child from measles, mumps and rubella.
  • 18 months, as part of the MMRV vaccine, which protects your child from measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (chickenpox).

Good handwashing is the best way to stop childhood illnesses from spreading. It's also important to cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow rather than into your hands, and to teach your child to do this too.

Some parents are worried that the MMR vaccine is associated with an increased risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). There's no scientific evidence that vaccines are linked to the development of ASD. If you have any concerns about the MMR vaccine, it's a good idea to discuss them with your GP.