New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: German Measles - Why You Should Not Ignore That Rash

"One morning, my son woke up with a rash on his face and neck. By the next day, it had spread to the rest of the body. He also had a runny nose and mild temperature.

I suspected he had measles, so I consulted a doctor," says Carol Kamale, a mother of two. "He was diagnosed with German measles."

Unlike Kamale, some parents may ignore a rash, or fever, but according to medical experts, this may signal German measles, which if not treated may be fatal.

Dr. Edison Mworozi, a senior consultant paediatrician at Mulago Hospital, says German measles is a mild disease caused by the rubella virus.

Is German measles similar to measles?

Measles is caused by the same virus that causes German measles. However, German measles does not present in a severe form. But like measles, it affects children aged about six to nine months. This disease is rare in children below six months because they would still be surviving on immunity, which they acquired from their mothers.

Symptoms

"A child with German measles develops a rash, slight fever, runny nose and painless swollen glands, particularly at the back of the neck and armpits. The rash normally starts from the back of the ears as well as the forehead and may spread to the rest of the body," Mworozi explains.

Usually, the symptoms last not more than three days and the child may recover without treatment.

Is German measles contagious?

German measles is infectious and is transmitted through contact. "It is an air-borne disease, which means it is transmitted through cough, sneezing or inhalation," Mworozi explains.

The incubation period is two to three weeks and the infected child can pass on the infection from about five days after the rash has manifested.

Mworozi says a child may also be born with the disease if the mother gets infected with the virus in the early stages of pregnancy.

Complications

Mworozi says though the disease is usually mild in older children, it can cause severe complications in newborns.

These include abnormalities of the heart, blindness and cataracts (an eye disease that involves the clouding or opacification of the natural lens of the eye).

"The disease can also affect the development of major organs, for example, the brain. A child who has been affected with rubella may develop a relatively small head and suffer from severe mental retardation, he says.

Treatment

Mworozi says the symptoms can be treated, but a parent should ensure that the child takes plenty of fluids to replace the lost ones.

Prevention

According to Mworozi, this can only be done through immunisation. "It is unfortunate that we do not immunise children against rubella, though plans are underway to introduce it on the immunisation schedule," he says

Nankunda advises parents to confine children with German measles until the symptoms clear. She adds that children with German measles should not come into contact with a pregnant woman, as her immunity may already be compromised, increasing the risk of contracting the disease.

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