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What is rubella?

pregnant mums visiting the surgeryRubella is an infection caused by a virus. It is sometimes called German measles.

Usually it is not a very serious infection but it can be very harmful to the baby if mum gets rubella in the early part of pregnancy. (Pregnancy [say preg- nan-see] is when a woman is having a baby.)   

About 90% of developing babies whose mums get rubella in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy can be harmed. These babies may be born with brain damage, deafness, vision problems, heart problems or die at birth.

How do you get it?


Rubella spreads from person to person when someone who has it coughs or sneezes and the infectious droplets spray out onto someone else who breathes them in.


What does it look like?

Up to half the kids who get rubella do not even know that they have it. They may not be unwell at all, or they may think they have a cold, or they may just feel a bit unwell.

Others may show these symptoms.

* Swollen glands in the neck, behind the ears, or at the back of the head. feeling unwell
* They may feel like they have a cold, may be a bit hot, feverish and have a headache.
* After a few days of feeling unwell a rash appears, usually on the face, and quickly spreads to other parts of the body. The rash has lots of small spots and usually fades away after about 3 days. It might be a bit itchy.
* Some kids may have pains in their joints, eg. knees, elbows, ankles, which may last after the rash has gone.

Many other infections can cause a rash and an illness like rubella. The only way to know for sure if you have rubella is to have a blood test.

How to avoid rubella 

In Australia children are immunised against rubella at 12 months old and again at the age of 4. This immunisation is a combined one for rubella, mumps and measles and is usually called MMR for short. (Measles, Mumps and Rubella)

getting immunised

The MMR vaccine is free in Australia.

Dr Kate says

Dr KateRubella might not seem dangerous as it usually doesn't make people feel very sick but it can cause very serious problems. People who get rubella should stay away from others and particularly stay away from pregnant mums.

Like many virus infections you can help stop germs spreading by covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough and being careful about washing your hands.

In the 'olden days' in Australia many children were very ill and some died from childhood illnesses such as measles, polio and diphtheria. Sometimes several children in one family died from diphtheria within a week of each other. Fortunately, since immunisations became available, there are no more sad little grave stones for young children who have died from these illnesses.


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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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