Rubella

Rubella, also known as the German measles, is an infection in which there is a rash on the skin.

The infection is caused by a virus. It is usually mild with fever and a rash. About half of the people who get rubella do not have symptoms. 

Rubella is most dangerous for a pregnant woman's baby. It can cause miscarriage or birth defects.

Rubella spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes. People without symptoms can still spread it. There is no treatment, but the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine can prevent it.

There is a safe and effective vaccine to prevent rubella. The rubella vaccine is recommended for all children. It is routinely given when children are 12 to 15 months old, but is sometimes given earlier during epidemics. A second vaccination (booster) is routinely given to children ages 4 to 6. MMR is a combination vaccine that protects against measles, mumps, and rubella.

Women of childbearing age most often have a blood test to see if they have immunity to rubella. If they are not immune, women should avoid getting pregnant for 28 days after receiving the vaccine.

Those who should not get vaccinated include:
  • Women who are pregnant
  • Anyone whose immune system is affected by cancer, corticosteroid medications, or radiation treatment.

Great care is taken not to give the vaccine to a woman who is already pregnant. However, in the rare instances when pregnant women have been vaccinated, no problems have been detected in the infants.

Rubella is caused by a virus that is spread through the air or by close contact.

A person with rubella may spread the disease to others from 1 week before the rash begins, until 1 to 2 weeks after the rash disappears.

Because the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is given to most children, rubella is much less common now. Almost everyone who receives the vaccine has immunity to rubella. Immunity means that your body has built a defense to the rubella virus.

In some adults, the vaccine may wear off. This means they are not fully protected. Women who may become pregnant and other adults may receive a booster shot.

Children and adults who were never vaccinated against rubella may still get this infection.

Children generally have few symptoms. Adults may have a fever, headache, general discomfort (malaise), and a runny nose before the rash appears. They may not notice the symptoms.

Other symptoms may include:
  • Bruising (rare)
  • Inflammation of the eyes (bloodshot eyes)
  • Muscle or joint pain

Rubella is most often a mild infection.

After an infection, people have immunity to the disease for the rest of their lives.

There is no treatment for this disease.

Taking acetaminophen can help reduce fever.

Defects that occur with congenital rubella syndrome can be treated.