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What is rubella?

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Rubella is a mild but very contagious disease that is preventable with a vaccine. Other names for rubella are German measles and three-day measles. Rubella is dangerous because of its ability to harm unborn babies. Infection of a pregnant woman can result in miscarriage, stillbirth, or serious birth defects.

What is the infectious agent that causes rubella?

Rubella is caused by the rubella virus.

Where is rubella found?

Rubella is found worldwide.

How do people get rubella?

People get rubella by breathing in droplets that get into the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. Rubella can also spread by direct contact with fluids from the nose or throat of an infected person.

What are the signs and symptoms of rubella?

Most cases of rubella are mild. About half of people infected with rubella virus get a rash that looks like small, fine pink spots. The rash first appears on the face and progresses from head to foot, lasting about 3 days. Children usually develop few or no other symptoms. Adults can have mild fever, headache, reddened eyes, swollen glands behind the ears, tiredness, and joint pain.

How is rubella diagnosed?

Diagnosis is by blood test or virus culture.

Who is at risk for rubella?

Anyone can get rubella, but unvaccinated, school-aged children are most at risk.

What complications can result from rubella?

Rubella is not usually a serious disease in children, but it can be very serious if a pregnant woman becomes infected. When a woman gets rubella during pregnancy, especially during the first 3 months, the infection is likely to spread to the fetus and cause congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). Up to 20% of the infants born to mothers infected with rubella during the first trimester of pregnancy have CRS. CRS can result in miscarriage, stillbirth, and severe birth defects. The most common birth defects are blindness, deafness, heart damage, and mental retardation.

How can rubella be prevented?

Rubella can be prevented by immunization.
  • All children should be vaccinated to protect themselves and others from rubella. The rubella vaccine is part of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine series given to children beginning at 12 months of age.
  • To help protect unborn babies from CRS, women must be immune to rubella before they become pregnant. Reproductive-aged women should find out their immunization status and receive rubella vaccine if needed. Usually, a blood test will be done during pregnancy to determine if a woman is protected against rubella. Any pregnant woman who has been exposed to rubella should be referred to her health-care provider.













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