Rubella is a very contagious (easily spread) illness caused by the rubella virus. It is usually a mild illness. But in rare cases, it may cause more serious problems.
If you are pregnant and get infected with the
rubella virus, your baby (fetus) could become infected too. This can cause birth defects, including serious defects known as congenital rubella
syndrome (CRS). CRS can cause hearing loss,
eye problems, heart problems, and
Rubella also is called German measles or
The rubella virus most often
is spread through droplets of fluid from the mouth, nose, or eyes of someone
who has the infection. A person who has the infection can spread these droplets
by coughing, sneezing, talking, or sharing food or drinks. You can get infected by touching something that has the droplets on it and then touching
your eyes, nose, or mouth before washing your hands.
you have rubella, you are most likely to spread it a few days before the rash
starts until 5 to 7 days after the rash first appears. But you can spread the virus even if you don't have any symptoms.
If you've had rubella, it is very unlikely that you will get it again.
Symptoms of rubella may
Adults, especially women, also may have joint pain. Older children and teens
also may have eye pain, a sore throat, and body aches. Young children may have
only a rash.
Symptoms may not start until 14 to 21 days after
you've been near someone who has the infection. Some people don't have
A blood test can help
your doctor find out if a recent infection you've had was caused by the rubella
virus. The test also shows if you have been immunized against rubella or are
immune to the virus.
Rubella usually gets better with home care.
Stay away from other people, especially pregnant women, as much as you can so that you don't spread the illness. If you or your child has rubella, don't go to work, school, or day care for 7 days after the rash first
are exposed to the rubella virus while you're pregnant, talk to your doctor. He or she may
give you a shot of
immunoglobulin (IG) if testing shows that you are not immune. IG doesn't prevent infection, but it may make symptoms less
severe. It also lowers the chance of birth defects, although it doesn't always prevent them. Children with congenital rubella syndrome have been
born to mothers who have received IG.
The rubella vaccine protects at least
9 out of 10 immunized people from getting this illness.1 In the United States, the vaccine is
part of the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) and MMRV (measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella [chickenpox]) vaccines. Most children get the vaccine as part of their regular shots.
may occur in people who haven't gotten the vaccine.
This is more likely to happen in college, military, health care, and
child care settings and among people who have recently moved to the United
States from other countries.1
If you are
planning to become pregnant and don't know if you're immune to rubella, get
a blood test to find out. If you're not immune, you can safely get the rubella
vaccine up to 1 month before you become pregnant. If you're not immune and didn't get the vaccine before you became pregnant, take extra care to avoid contact with the virus. Avoid the saliva of babies and young children, and wash your hands often.
Learning about rubella:
This CDC website has information about vaccines and the diseases that can
be prevented by immunization. It includes the recommended
immunization schedules for children, teens, and adults. You can also find
information about vaccine side effects and safety, school and state
requirements, and immunization records. Interactive schedules are also
The March of Dimes tries to improve the health of babies
by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and early death. March of Dimes
supports research, community services, education, and advocacy to save babies'
lives. The organization's website has information on premature birth, birth
defects, birth defects testing, pregnancy, and prenatal care.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious
Diseases conducts research and provides consumer information on infectious and
The National Network for Immunization Information provides
information on immunizations, including each of the recommended childhood
vaccines, the recommended childhood immunization schedule, tips on using the
World Wide Web as a source of immunization and health information, and links to
other helpful sites. You can also search for the vaccines that each state
requires before entry into school or day care.
This U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website has vaccine information from many federal agencies. A Spanish version of the website is available at http://es.vaccines.gov.
American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Rubella. In LK Pickering et al., eds., Red Book: 2009 Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases, 28th ed., pp. 579–584. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.
Other Works Consulted
American Public Health Association (2008). Rubella (German measles). In DL Heymann, ed., Control of Communicable Diseases Manual, 19th ed., pp. 529–534. Washington, DC: American Public Health Association.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2011). Rubella. In W Atkinson et al., eds., Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases, 12th ed., pp. 291–300. Washington, DC: Public Health Foundation. Also available online: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/index.html.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2013). Prevention of measles, rubella, congenital rubella syndrome, and mumps, 2013: Summary recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR, 62(RRO4): 1–34. Also available online: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr6204a1.htm.
Cherry JD (2009). Rubella virus. In RD Feigin et al., eds., Feigin and Cherry's Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, 6th ed., vol. 1, pp. 2271–2300. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
Levin MJ, Weinberg A (2011). Infections: Viral and rickettsial. In WW Hay et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics, 20th ed., pp. 1107–1147. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Mason WH (2011). Rubella. In RM Kleigman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed., pp. 1075–1078. Philadelphia: Saunders.
August 14, 2013
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
& W. David Colby IV, MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious Disease
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