Measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox – four diseases you can protect yourself against

When there was no vaccination against measles, almost everyone contracted measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox as a child. That’s why they were called children’s diseases, although they can affect adults just as well. The diseases usually heal, but not always without consequences.

Close-up of a boy suffering from mumps being palpated on the neck by an adult woman

These diseases are caused by different viruses. These are spread by droplets that the sick person coughs up or sneezes, or through contaminated objects. After infection, the viruses multiply in the body until, after days or weeks, the first symptoms appear, such as cough, cold, fatigue, headache and pain in the limbs, or mild to moderate fever. In case of measles, rubella and chickenpox, a skin rash appears afterwards. Typical of measles are irregular spots, three to six millimeters in size, which are initially bright red and merge into one another, later turning brownish-purple. Rubella, on the other hand, causes small, bright red, slightly raised spots that are often barely visible. In chickenpox, red blisters develop that can be very itchy and dry up after one to two days. A characteristic feature of mumps is that one or both parotid glands swell, giving sufferers "hamster cheeks". There are no drugs or other specific treatments for these diseases.


Fortunately, all four diseases usually heal without consequences after a few days – but sometimes there are complications. Depending on how far the viruses have spread in the body, different organs can be affected.

This is how it happens with Measles The viruses themselves or a bacterial infection facilitated by them often lead to inflammation of the middle ear and lungs, bronchitis or diarrhea. About one in a thousand patients experience inflammation of the brain or meninges, which can lead to death in 10-20% of cases. Very rarely, a chronic brain inflammation (subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, SSPE) occurs – usually 6-8 years after infection – in which all brain functions eventually fail. According to the Robert Koch Institute, a total of about one in a thousand patients in Germany dies from the above complications of measles.

Recent findings also show that a measles infection permanently weakens the immune system, making other infections more dangerous. During the acute phase of infection, the viruses destroy not only white blood cells, which protect the body against invaders, but also memory cells of the immune defense system. If many of these cells are destroyed, the immune system no longer knows how to fight off many pathogens with which it has already been confronted. Earlier vaccinations can also lose their effect. The reconstruction of essential parts of the immune memory takes about two to three years.

to prevent complications Rubella can be inflammation of the middle ear, heart muscle or brain, and bronchitis. If pregnant women contract rubella and the unborn child is also infected, it can suffer damage to the eyes, inner ear or heart, especially in the first trimester of pregnancy. A miscarriage can occur.

Also in the Chickenpox If a child is infected with the vaccine in the womb during the first six months of pregnancy, it can suffer damage to the skin, eyes and nervous system, or even die. Children who contract chickenpox shortly after birth also frequently die because they are not yet immune to the disease. More common complications of infection later in life, similar to measles and rubella, include inflammation of the lungs, heart, and central nervous system. In addition, the varicella viruses remain in certain nerve nodes for the rest of the patient’s life after infection and can repeatedly trigger the very painful shingles.

At Mumps can also lead to sometimes fatal inflammation of various organs such as the pancreas or brain. testicular inflammation can lead to infertility in rare cases.

Eradicating measles and rubella is possible

The World Health Organization (WHO) aims to eradicate measles and rubella by 2020. In countries with a high vaccination rate of over 95%, such as Scandinavia or North and South America, this has already been largely achieved. In countries like Germany, which so far have had a somewhat lower vaccination rate, local epidemics such as the 2015 measles outbreak in Berlin occur time and again. However, in African and Southeast Asian countries, where vaccination rates are low, infection rates and mortality are still relatively high. For example, at the end of 2019, a measles epidemic occurred on the Pacific island of Samoa with almost 6.000 cases and over 80 deaths, which could only be stopped by a comprehensive vaccination campaign.

Mandatory vaccination

Many EU countries have made measles vaccination compulsory. These include, for example, Italy, France, Poland, the Czech Republic, and from 1. March 2020 also Germany.

Seminar scene in which the moderator calls on a participant to speak

Why vaccinations are important and other questions about vaccination
Vaccinations have reduced the incidence of many dangerous diseases – and this is widely known. On the other hand, nobody wants to expose his body to a burden or danger by a vaccination, if this is not or no longer necessary. Here you will find a FAQ about vaccination , z.B. Why it is important to get vaccinated, what the chances and risks are, or what actually happens when you get vaccinated.

How to vaccinate against measles

Since the late 1960s, it has been possible to protect oneself and one’s children against measles by vaccination. Information on this vaccination and the vaccines used for it are compiled here.

Measles protection lasts a lifetime Like anyone who has had measles, anyone who has been vaccinated against it is immune to the disease for the rest of their life. For children, the Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) in Germany recommends two vaccinations, which should be given before the end of the second year of life. The second vaccination is useful because some children for various reasons after the first immunization have not yet built up sufficient vaccine protection. In order to close the vaccination gaps in adults, the STIKO also recommends a one-time vaccination for all persons born after 1970 who have neither had measles nor received the two childhood vaccinations

Our members and their locations

Our members and their locations

The members of the vfa represent more than two-thirds of the entire German pharmaceutical market and employ around 80.000 employees.
More than 18.000 of their employees work in Germany for the research and development of drugs. In Germany alone, research-based pharmaceutical companies invest more than 7 billion euros annually in vaccinations. euros in drug research for new and better drugs. This corresponds to about 30 million euros per working day.

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