Rubella, also known as German measles is a mild yet contagious viral disease. If you have rubella you will experience mild illness and the usual symptoms include develop swollen glands, a temperature and a sore throat. It’s not uncommon to have rashes develop on the face and neck or behind the ears however in some cases very few symptoms will be present. The disease lasts only a couple of days and due to its mild nature can sometimes pass unnoticed. Rubella is spread by droplets in the air which come from the coughs and sneezes of someone infected with the disease. Rubella used to be a very common disease, especially in childhood. However due to widespread vaccinations the disease is currently much rarer.

Congenital Rubella Syndrome

If you contract rubella while pregnant the disease can severely affect the sight, hearing, heart and brain of your unborn baby by causing Congenital Rubella Syndrome. There is a greater risk involved if Rubella is contracted within the first few months of pregnancy. And unfortunately, many mothers who contract the disease within this period go on to miscarriage or have a still born baby. As time goes by this risk will less until after around four months there is very little risk of the virus damaging your baby. The most common symptoms of Congenital Rubella Syndrome include deafness, abnormalities of the eye including cataracts and Congenital heart disease. Congenital Rubella Syndrome can also manifest in several other ways such as problems with the spleen, bone marrow, or liver, micrognathism (a condition where the jaw is undersized), Hepatomegaly (a condition where the liver is over sized) and a low birth weight. Research indicates that children who have been exposed to rubella in the womb are at a greater risk of developing several other conditions as they age. These include schizophrenia, learning disabilities, glaucoma, diabetes and a retardation of growth.

How to protect against Rubella

It’s easy to protect yourself from rubella by seeking immunisation before becoming pregnant. The most commonly used type of vaccination for rubella is the MMR vaccine. This vaccine is internationally used to protect against measles, mumps and rubella. It’s usual to have a blood test to see if you’re already immune; then, if needed, you can be immunised with the MMR vaccine. This program of immunisation has been very successful with several countries announcing that they have eliminated both the congenital and acquired forms of rubella.


There’s currently no specific treatment that is effective against Rubella. Therefore the disease is managed by combating the symptoms and making the sufferer as comfortable as possible throughout the course of the illness. The treatment of those with Congenital Rubella syndrome focuses on managing any complications which occur. Cataracts and congenital heart defects occurring due to Congenital Rubella syndrome can often be corrected through surgery.