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Childhood Diseases

Rubella

Rubella, also called German measles, is a very contagious disease caused by a virus. The virus causes fever, swollen lymph nodes behind the ears, and a rash that starts on the face and then spreads to the torso and arms and legs. Rubella is not usually serious in children, but can be very serious if a pregnant woman becomes infected. Fortunately, rubella is no longer common, because since 1969 most children are vaccinated for it with the MMR vaccine when they are a year old.

Rubella is spread when a person breathes in droplets of coughs or sneezes from an infected person. A person can spread the disease for several days before the rash appears and for up to a week after the rash goes away.

Infectious Knowledge

In 1964 and 1965, 20,000 babies were born with birth defects due to a rubella outbreak. The outbreak also caused 10,000 miscarriages and stillbirths.

Potent Fact

The MMR and DPT vaccines each protect against three diseases:

MMR: measles, mumps, rubella

DPT: diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus

Rubella is caused by a different virus than the one that causes regular measles, so children need to have both a measles and a rubella vaccine.

Rash of rubella on the skin of a child's back. Distribution of the rash is similar to that of measles, but the lesions are less intensely red.

Rash of rubella on the skin of a child's back. Distribution of the rash is similar to that of measles, but the lesions are less intensely red. (Courtesy CDC)

book cover

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Dangerous Diseases and Epidemics © 2002 by David Perlin, Ph.D., and Ann Cohen. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.


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