Measles, Rubella, Roseola or Fifths?

The confusion continues regarding the differences between various viruses that all look and sound like the measles. However, since the beginning of the measles vaccine (history here), the illness seems to have taken a sharp turn – not the virus itself, but society’s view of it. Back in the dark ages of England when my husband was raised (1980s), measles was just another childhood illness. Take a look at this film spread where The Brady Bunch, Donna Reed and even the Flintstones were affected by the deadly disease.

sure can't beat the measlesI know, I know… what does television tell you about medicine? Well anyone with half a brain (or at least a class on the History of Film or how film affects and reflects culture) can see that it tells you a whole lot. Take Grey’s Anatomy, for example. It may not be some dramatized version of my love life, but the writers were smart enough to know that it’s the tetanus Immune Globulin (not the tetanus shot!), you give to a patient post-exposure to tetanus. But let’s move on to the illnesses at hand, shall we?

First, complications from any of the conditions in this ‘opinion piece’ are EXTREMELY rare (see where I slipped in the Legalese?). Don’t let third world statistics lead you to believe that measles is akin to the plague. This blog here does a wonderful job of comparing the complications of measles to the complications from the MMR vaccine (Jessica’s blog I linked to there is what first inspired me to blog!).

So let’s compare the more “dangerous” illnesses like the measles and rubella, to those common childhood conditions that your mommy friends don’t bat an eye at, roseola and fifths disease. First, a note:

Measles is also called Rubeola
Rubella is also called German Measles
Roseola… really doesn’t go by anything else
Slapped Cheek is also called Fifths Disease
Scarlet fever and rubella also fell under measles, not distinshuishable from one another until 1913.

I used the British NHS website for the following data because there is less fear-mongering than the American CDC’s version.

comparison chart of Measles Mumps etc

One difference that is noted between roseola and the measles is that roseola’s fever will subside for a few hours before the rash begins (source). Which is curious… why the fear of measles but no fear of roseola when the only difference is whether the rash disappears before or after the fever dissipates? Hmm… (source)

And the rashes side-by-side:

measles Roseola rash Rubella rash slapped cheek syndrome

Now if you google these diseases for images, you are going to see some varying degrees of severity… and in many (look at the slapped cheek and rubella above) the skin looks a little… off-colored. Is that severe contrasting or are they displaying the lightest skin they could for some of these examples? Let me tell you, if they used dark skinned children you would not be able to see the rash. In my daughter’s brown skin, the measles barely looked like a heat rash. Do you want to see what Measles looks like on a darker skinned child? Is this as scary looking as the photos above?measles african childThen there’s another difficulty… the ridiculous articles going around showing the severity of such illnesses as chickenpox or measles. But the picture is some other illness entirely! I just googled “measles,” and there it was in front of me, imposters like chickenpox, and even herpes, trying to pass themselves off as the measles.

Remember in early 2016, when the article was circulating about how horrible and deadly the chickenpox is? It was not just a case of chickenpox, it was blood poisoning from ibuprofen given to a child with chickenpox. (Ibuprofen and aspirin are a no-no with chickenpox – google those words together and you’ll be shocked at the pictures that come up. I’ll spare you, it’s bad.) And another article I saw circulating about measles had an image of an African boy… with smallpox!

pox stock photos

And then there’s the “we’re just going to draw the rash on her” photos? I don’t even know what this is about… I’d love for a reader to fill me in…

So the next time your doctors says “it’s just some kind of virus” and refuses to test… Or worse, when our (very temporary) pediatrician claimed it couldn’t be measles simply because “children can’t survive measles without hospitalization”… you can use your own Google MD and common sense to determine what it really is. This study shows that Vitamin A works to relieve measles illness. And for the record, antibiotics do NOT work on viruses. Last year our (fully vaccinated) babysitter had mumps, during a mumps outbreak at her university, and the doctor refused to acknowledge her concerns. He simply sent her home with no tests and a handful of antibiotics. But antibiotics only work on bacterial infections, not viral. So don’t let your pediatrician convince you to give your child with a virus unnecessary antibiotics (source here) for any of the four viral illnesses compared on this page.




British National Health Service:

For More information:

Treating Measles by Dr. Green Mom (blog by a doctor)

Measles Shmeasles – Comparing Measles to the Risks of the MMR Vaccine

List of Studies: Measles




4 Replies to “Measles, Rubella, Roseola or Fifths?”

  1. I’m confused about the ‘slapped cheek’ photo of a child’s chest. Can you helpe out with this?