Also called three-day measles, German measles is a viral infection caused by the rubella virus, explains Dr Donald Tshabalala, a specialist paediatrician at Life St Mary’s Private Hospital in Mthatha.
Who is at risk?
It can affect both children and adults and is transmitted through droplets of fluid when an infected person coughs or sneezes. A pregnant woman can also transmit rubella to her unborn child, resulting in severe malformations – especially during the first trimester.
Symptoms start appearing after about two weeks of exposure to the virus. These include:
- A mild red body rash that starts on the face and spreads down the body and usually resolves by day three (up to 40% of children may not present with a rash at all)
- Low-grade temperature spikes
- Sore throat
- Red eyes
- Enlarged lymph nodes, especially at the back of the ears and neck.
One week before and after the appearance of the rash.
The condition is self-limiting with symptoms subsiding over time. Treatment is symptomatic, so painkillers and fever-reducing medications are used.
The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine should not be given to pregnant women. However, women who have not been immunised are advised to have the shot before falling pregnant. In addition, affected children should be isolated and prevented from interacting with other children.
Seek professional help in the presence of:
- Any signs of bleeding, like a nosebleed, blood in the urine or stool, or bleeding gums
- Any symptoms of encephalitis such as ongoing headaches, seizures, confusion and difficulty walking.
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