Sometimes rubella is known as German measles, but the word "German" in the name of this disease has nothing to do with the country. It comes from the Latin germanus, meaning "similar", since rubella and measles share many symptoms.
Rubella is a common benign childhood infection manifested by a characteristic exanthem and lymphadenopathy. Rubella virus infecting a pregnant female, while causing a benign illness in the mother, may result in the congenital rubella syndrome with serious chronic fetal infection and malformation. Childhood immunization is highly effective at preventing infection.
The disease is caused by a virus that is spread through the air or by close contact. It can also be transmitted to a fetus by a mother with an active infection, causing severe disease in the fetus. In children and adults, rubella is usually mild and may even go unnoticed.
Rubella is especially dangerous in women infected during the first few months of pregnancy because the virus can severely damage the fetus.
Rubella is a mild illness which may present few or no symptoms. Symptoms may include a rash, slight fever, joint aches, headache, discomfort, runny nose and reddened eyes. The lymph nodes just behind the ears and at the back of the neck may swell, causing some soreness and/or pain. The rash, which may be itchy, first appears on the face and progresses from head to foot, lasting about three days. As many as half of all rubella cases occur without a rash.
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