Rubella
(German Measles)

About rubella

Rubella, sometimes called German measles or three-day measles, is a contagious disease caused by a virus. The infection is usually mild with fever and rash.

Symptoms

Rubella usually causes the following symptoms in children:

  • Rash that starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body
  • Low fever (less than 101 degrees)

These symptoms last 2 or 3 days.

Older children and adults may also have swollen glands and symptoms like a cold before the rash appears. Aching joints occur in many cases, especially among young women.

About half of the people who get rubella do not have symptoms.

Complications

Birth defects if acquired by a pregnant woman: deafness, cataracts, heart defects, mental retardation, and liver and spleen damage (at least a 20% chance of damage to the fetus if a woman is infected early in pregnancy).

Transmission

Spread by contact with an infected person, through coughing and sneezing.

Prevention

Reader Stories

Rubella vaccine (contained in MMR vaccine) can prevent this disease.

Does my child need this vaccine?

Children should get 2 doses of MMR vaccine:

  • The first dose at 12-15 months of age
  • The second dose at 4-6 years of age

These are the recommended ages. But children can get the second dose at any age, as long as it is at least 28 days after the first dose.

As an adult, do I need this vaccine?

You do NOT need the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine (MMR) if:

  • You had blood tests that show you are immune to measles, mumps, and rubella.
  • You are a man born before 1957.
  • You are a woman born before 1957 who is sure she is not having more children, has already had rubella vaccine, or has had a positive rubella test.
  • You already had two doses of MMR or one dose of MMR plus a second dose of measles vaccine.
  • You already had one dose of MMR and are not at high risk of measles or mumps exposure.

You SHOULD get the measles vaccine if you are not among the categories listed above, and

  • You are a college student, trade school student, or other student beyond high school.
  • You work in a hospital or other medical facility.
  • You travel internationally, or are a passenger on a cruise ship.
  • You are a woman of childbearing age.

SOURCE:

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Rubella (German Measles, Three-Day Measles)." Dec. 17, 2014.


Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/17/2014

Patient Comments

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German Measles (Rubella) - Signs and Symptoms Question: What were the signs and symptoms associated with German measles (rubella) in you or a relative?
German Measles (Rubella) - Vaccine Experience Question: Did you postpone getting the rubella vaccine for your child? If so, please share your experience and reasons.

German Measles During Pregnancy

What infections should be avoided in pregnancy?

Rubella virus infection in early pregnancy can cause miscarriage or birth defects. Therefore, women of childbearing age are tested for immunity to this virus, and those lacking antibodies to the rubella virus should be vaccinated against this virus.