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Rubella is a contagious viral illness. Once you have had rubella, you will not get sick with it again.

Rubella Rash

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Babies whose mothers have rubella during pregnancy (especially during the first trimester) can be born with severe birth defects, including:

  • Mental retardation and/or behavior problems
  • Hearing problems
  • Vision abnormalities, blindness, and/or cataracts
  • Heart defects
  • Increased risk of diabetes throughout early life
  • Death in utero


Rubella is caused by a virus. It is passed from person-to-person through tiny droplets in the air.

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. You're more likely to get rubella if you've never had the condition or have never been immunized against it.


Symptoms are usually mild and include:

  • Fatigue, low energy
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Flushed face
  • Red throat (although not sore)
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Achy joints and arthritis (especially in adults)
  • Red, spotty rash all over the body
The danger of rubella is not the symptoms it causes in adults or children, but its risk to a baby when the mother becomes infected with the condition during early pregnancy.


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Rubella is diagnosed by blood tests.


There is no treatment for rubella, other than giving acetaminophen (Tylenol) to make you more comfortable.


Although the rubella vaccine is available as a single preparation, it is recommended it be given as a combination vaccine called the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles , mumps , and rubella.

All children (with few exceptions) should receive the vaccine two times: at 12-15 months and again at 4-6 years (school entry).

For those aged 12 months to 18 years who have not been vaccinated, two doses of MMR are given, separated by a minimum of 4 weeks. Adults, aged 19 or older, who require vaccination receive one or two doses. *

Women who are not sure whether they have been immunized should be tested to see if they have immunity to rubella, particularly if they are in occupations with high risk of exposure to rubella (such as healthcare workers, teachers, and childcare workers).

Immunization can be given to women of childbearing age, although they should avoid getting pregnant within three months of receiving the vaccine. The vaccine offers most persons who receive it lifelong protection against rubella infection.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Immunization Action Coalition


About Kids

Communicable Disease Control Unit (Manitoba Health, Public Health Branch)


Conn's Current Therapy . 59th ed. WB Saunders Company; 2007.

Conn's Current Therapy . 53rd ed. WB Saunders Company; 2001.

Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics . 17th ed. WB Saunders Company; 2004.

Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics . 16th ed. WB Saunders Company; 2000.

*Updated Who Should Get Vaccinated and When section on 1/31/2008 according to the following study, as cited by DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended immunization schedules for persons aged 0-18 years—United States, 2008. MMWR. 2008;57;Q1-Q4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MMWR website. Available at: . Updated January 10, 2008. Accessed January 28, 2008.

Last reviewed February 2008 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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