German measles (rubella)

Contagious virus spread by droplets; causes rash, fever and swollen glands and may cause severe malformations to babies of infected pregnant women

Effects of the disease

About five in 10 patients develop a rash and painful swollen glands; five in 10 adolescents and adults have painful joints; one in 3,000 develops thrombocytopenia (bruising or bleeding); one in 6,000 develops inflammation of the brain; nine in 10 babies infected during the first 10 weeks after conception will have a major congenital abnormality (such as deafness, blindness, brain damage or heart defects).

How to immunise and when

The combination measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine provides protection against German measles (rubella) and is given at 12 months of age. The combination measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (MMRV) vaccine is given at 18 months of age.

While the vaccine should not be given to pregnant women, it is safe to vaccinate children who are in contact with pregnant women.

Side effects of immunisation

The most common reaction is feeling unwell and having a low grade fever, possibly with a rash, occurring 7-10 days after immunisation and lasting approximately two to three days.

More serious reactions are rare. Thrombocytopenia (bleeding or bruising) is very rarely associated with the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, occurring in three to five per 100 000 doses of vaccine administered.

If you have any concerns about side effects of vaccines, talk to your doctor or nurse.

Page last updated: 10 Aug 2017