German measles are produced by a virus, but a different one from the ordinary measles. Because a skin rash occurs a similar name has been given to the condition. It is commonly known by its technical name rubella. It is invariably a mild illness, seldom causing troublesome outward symptoms, is not highly contagious, and is spread from person to person by infected moisture particles. It takes anywhere from 12 to 21 days for symptoms to develop after infection—on average, 16 days. The big deal about rubella is its enormously high risk for pregnant women.
Today nearly every woman is aware of the potential risks. Rubella infection during early pregnancy carries a high risk of the developing infant being adversely affected. The virus rapidly crosses the maternal barriers into the fetus. In the first 12 weeks, the vital organs are being formed—the ears, eyes, heart and other parts. The virus markedly upsets the normal growth and development.
This results in various degrees of impairment taking place, ranging from partial or total hearing loss, visual disorders and cardiac disabilities, to mention the most frequent. The brain, liver, spleen and bones may be affected, resulting in various serious mental, blood and growth disorders.
In fact, rubella occurring during the first month of pregnancy is claimed to produce birth defects in 50 per cent of babies—a very high rate. By the end of the third month, the risk wanes to about 10 per cent, but that is still too high, especially if it could be totally avoided. But it may be readily avoided with sensible immunization.
Immunization of girls in the 12-14-year age group by a single injection usually imparts a high level of protection. Today, babies are often given protection by a single MMR measles, mumps, and rubella injection at 12-15 months. Incidentally, if there is any question as to whether immunization has been successful, sensible women have a blood check done before they attempt pregnancy.
German Measles Symptoms
These are few and minimal. Often there may be a mild fever, a few swollen lymph glands in the back of the neck. Or there may be no obvious symptoms. A mild rash may be the first sign. This is a faint, fine series of small pink marks starting on the face and spreading to the arms and legs. It is more a stippled appearance, lasting only a day or two, and may not even be seen; it can come and go so rapidly at times.
German Measles Treatment
Therapy is simple and mainly symptomatic. There are no specific measures, but if symptoms occur and cause any worry, the routine is similar to the treatment of ordinary measles. Fluids, paracetamol elixir for the fever, and general care are recommended.
In the unlikely event that complications occur, call the doctor. Sometimes the doctor is called to confirm the diagnosis. This is important if there is any chance of a pregnant woman (during her first 12 weeks of pregnancy) coming into contact with the patient. If this happens she must notify her own physician immediately for further treatment. Ideally, women at any stage of pregnancy should avoid exposure to a person known to have German measles.