Warning Signs of German Measles
German measles is a normally harmless disease which has one terrible side-effect – if a pregnant woman catches it her baby may be born seriously handicapped.
About 25 per cent of babies whose mothers get German measles in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy are born deaf or blind – sometimes with heart disease – or are stillborn.
Several other viral illnesses mimic German measles. A blood test is the only reliable way to confirm that the illness and rash are due to German measles.
The warning signs of German measles
• A general feeling of being off-colour for a few days, with no obvious symptoms.
• A rash of tiny pink, slightly raised spots appears behind the ears or on the face. They then spread downwards to the rest of the body (see also Measles).
• Glands become swollen, particularly behind the ears.
• The joints may swell and become painful. This is most likely to occur with young women.
What you should do
• Keep the patient indoors and away from pregnant women for four days after the rash appears.
• Give paracetamol to relieve any pain.
• Consult your doctor if the joint pains become severe or if the patient develops a high temperature, a severe and persistent headache or becomes drowsy.
• A woman who is in contact with German measles in early pregnancy, and doesn’t know if she is immune, should ask her doctor for a blood test. If the test shows she is infected the doctor may ask if she wants an abortion.
IMMUNITY FROM GERMAN MEASLES
• Children become immune from German measles for life by catching the disease – you can’t get it twice. So let your child visit a friend or relative who has it.
• All children should be immunised with MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine in their second year.
• Women of child-bearing age who do not know if they are immune can get a blood test from their doctor. They can then be immunised from the disease if necessary.