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Childhood disease – Rubella

Rubella is a highly contagious childhood disease. It is precisely because of this contagiousness that it is important that you know when you are dealing with rubella. The disease may have a harmless course for born children, but it can have serious consequences for unborn children. An pregnant woman has a high chance of giving birth to a child with a weak heart, eye and hearing defects, among other things, if she becomes infected with the virus that causes rubella.

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In this article you will find information about the childhood disease rubella:

  • General information
  • Pathogen
  • Way of infection
  • Incubation period
  • Disease symptoms
  • Disease progression
  • Complications
  • Treatment / care
  • Vaccination
  • Report to the GGD



Rubella is often a disease without a serious course. The virus that causes rubella is especially dangerous for women who are 3 or less months pregnant. The risk of miscarriage is high and since the mother can transmit the virus to the unborn child, the child can be born with abnormalities. If a woman is infected with rubella during pregnancy, the child is at risk of a weak heart, eye abnormalities, hearing loss/deafness, growth retardation, a lack of platelets, liver or spleen enlargement, nervous system disorders, bone abnormalities or abnormalities in the urinary tract. Even after the first 3 months of pregnancy, an unborn baby is not yet safe from the disease. However, the consequences are less serious. Development delays and abnormalities in the immune system are often found. A well-known Dutch example of a child who became infected during pregnancy is Princess Christina (Marijke). She is the daughter of Queen Juliana, who contracted rubella during her pregnancy. Princess Christina suffered an eye defect as a result.


Rubella is caused by the rubella virus.

Way of infection

The rubella virus is found in the fluid droplets from the nose and mouth of the infected child. The disease is therefore mainly transmitted by coughing and sneezing, but objects that have come into contact with the patient’s saliva can also spread the virus. Think of objects such as cups, cutlery, toys that are put in the mouth, etc.Rubella is contagious 10 days before and 7 days after the outbreak of the spots. An infected person infects an average of 7 to 8 people during his illness.

Incubation period

Incubation period is the time between infection and outbreak of the disease. The incubation period for mumps is 14 to 21 days.

Disease symptoms

  • Slight increase
  • Swollen glands at the back of the neck and behind the ears
  • Painful joints
  • Rash (Small flat red spots that appear on the face and behind the ears and spread from there over the body. The spots are not itchy.)


Course of the disease

The disease usually starts with a cold. Older children and adults in particular suffer from sensitive glands in the neck and behind the ears. They may also suffer from joint problems (mainly in the female sex) and droopiness.The child’s temperature rises slightly. The characteristic rash appears after a day. Red-pink spots appear on the face and behind the ears. Within a few hours, this rash spreads over the entire body. Sometimes the spots merge together, making the child appear to have a red skin color. This confluence mainly takes place in the face. A few days later the rash disappears. The swollen glands behind the ears and in the neck may remain visible for several weeks.


  • Deficiency of platelets
  • Encephalitis
  • Meningitis
  • Joint inflammation in fingers, wrist and/or knees

Complications in children whose mothers became infected during pregnancy:

  • Weak heart
  • Eye abnormalities
  • Hearing impairment/deafness
  • Stunted growth
  • Deficiency of platelets
  • Liver or spleen enlargement
  • Disorders of the nervous system
  • Bone abnormalities
  • Abnormalities of the urinary tract
  • Developmental delay
  • Abnormalities in the immune system


Treatment / care

There is no specific curative treatment for a patient infected with rubella. The child can be cared for as is done for a cold. Give the child plenty to drink and possibly paracetamol to reduce the temperature/fever. When a child has rubella, it is especially important to warn the environment, especially pregnant women. Report the disease to organizations (daycare, school, etc.) where the child goes.

Notify the doctor if:

  • Signs of meningitis
  • Joint pain



The vaccination for rubella was mainly created because the rubella virus is so dangerous for the unborn child. Initially, only girls were injected with the vaccine. But because some women missed the vaccination or did not produce antibodies and boys could still transmit the virus, small epidemics continued to arise. For this reason, all children are now vaccinated twice. The first vaccination takes place when a child is 14 months old. 5 to 10% of children suffer from side effects such as: rash, fever and/or joint pain. These symptoms disappear after 1 to 2 days. The second vaccine is given because the first vaccine does not work in 5% of the children. After the second vaccination, a child is completely immune to the rubella virus. A child is also completely immune to the virus if it has already had the disease. Expectant women should not receive a vaccination because the vaccine is a weakened living entity.

Report to the GGD?

If mumps is diagnosed twice within 2 weeks in children within the same organization (school, daycare center, etc.), the organization is obliged to report it to the GGD.