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Measles and Rubella (German Measles)

Measles and Rubella, commonly known as 'German Measles', are very contagious viral illnesses characterized by a distinct rash and a fever. Each disease is spread through airborne droplets of nasal secretions when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Measles droplets can remain active and contagious for two hours. Rubella takes two to three weeks to incubate, and although mild, can cause birth defects in children of infected pregnant women.

Thanks to global vaccination programs, measles and Rubella are rare. However, along with a trend of some parents to forgo vaccinations for their children, cases of measles and Rubella are on the rise.

Complications of measles can be serious:

  • Ear infections

  • Lung infections (pneumonia)

  • Diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain

  • Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)

Rubella in pregnant women may cause serious complications in the unborn baby, including a range of severe birth defects.

Symptoms of Measles and Rubella


  • Fever, headache
  • Runny nose
  • Sore, pink eyes (conjunctivitis)
  • Cough
  • Feeling ill
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Tiny white spots appear on the inside of the mouth within three or four days of onset. Within another few days, a red rash appears, covering the whole body. The rash fades in four-seven days.


  • Rash (begins on face, progresses to trunk and rest of body, lasts three days)
  • Slight fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Headache


If you suspect that you or a family member has measles or Rubella, contact your primary care physician. If you do not have a primary care physician, call 1-800-254-3258 (1-800-254-3258) to find a physician who is right for you.

Specific treatment for the measles and Rubella will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your overall health and medical history

  • Extent of the condition

  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the condition

  • Your opinion or preference

Although antibiotics will not treat the measles itself, it may be necessary to treat secondary infections. Usually plenty of fluids and acetaminophen for the fever help make you more comfortable.


Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) is a childhood vaccination against measles, mumps, and rubella. People who have had the measles are immune for life. However, if you work at an educational institute, or a healthcare setting, or are planning international travel, you may want to be vaccinated to boost your immunity. As there has been nearly no measles circulating in the United States, immunity in most adults has waned. 

If you have measles, take special care to avoid other people or public places for about a week after the onset of rash. This will help to prevent an outbreak.