Rubella, or German measles as it is commonly known, is an infectious disease characterised by a rash, fever and enlarged neck glands. The rash looks a bit like normal measles and spreads all over the body, most noticeably on the face, neck and upper chest.

The disease is usually very mild, especially in children, and the fever only lasts between one and three days. In adults, it may be a little more troublesome with signs and symptoms such as fever, headache, runny nose and inflamed eyes. Some people also get painful or inflamed joints.

A person suffering from rubella is contagious for about seven days before and four days after the onset of the rash.

Rubella is spread through close contact with a sufferer, or through inhalation (breathing in) of the droplets that a sufferer produces every time s/he coughs or sneezes.

There is no special treatment for rubella. However it is advisable to rest up in bed for as long as the fever lasts.

One episode of rubella gives you lifelong immunity. Quite often an attack of rubella is so mild that people may be unaware that they have the illness. The only way of knowing whether someone has immunity to rubella is by blood test.

But it is important to know this, because if a pregnant woman (especially a woman in the first four months of pregnancy) gets even a mild dose of rubella, her baby can be born with a defective heart, eyesight, hearing or mental capacities.

A woman can be immunised by a single injection of rubella vaccine. Unfortunately, the vaccine cannot be given to a woman who is pregnant, or who is likely to become pregnant within two months of receiving it.

Therefore, if any expecting mother comes into contact with someone who has rubella, she should inform her doctor immediately.

To get a rubella vaccine, contact your local Aboriginal medical service.

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