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Alternative Names Return to topThree day measles; German measles
Definition Return to top
Rubella is a contagious infection in which there is a rash on the skin.
Causes Return to top
The disease is caused by a virus that is spread through the air or by close contact.
A person can transmit the disease from 1 week before the rash begins, until 1 - 2 weeks after the rash disappears. The disease is less contagious than rubeola (measles). After an infection, people have immunity to the disease for the rest of their lives.
In children and adults, rubella is usually mild and may even go unnoticed.
Risk factors include:
Symptoms Return to top
Children generally have few symptoms. Adults may experience a fever, headache, general discomfort (malaise), and a runny nose before the rash appears. They may not notice the symptoms.
Other symptoms may include:
Exams and Tests Return to top
Treatment Return to top
There is no treatment for this disease.
Patients can take acetaminophen to reduce fever.
Defects that occur with congenital rubella syndrome can be treated.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
Rubella is usually a mild infection.
However, if a mother is infected during early pregnancy, rubella can cause defects in the developing baby. The unborn baby can develop congenital rubella syndrome, which typically has a poor outcome. Defects are rare if the infection occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy.
Possible Complications Return to top
Complications that can occur in the unborn baby:
A miscarriage or stillbirth may occur.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if:
Prevention Return to top
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 - 15 months old, but is sometimes given earlier during epidemics. A second vaccination (booster) is routinely given to children ages 4 - 6. MMR is a combination vaccine that protects against measles, mumps, and rubella.
Women of childbearing age usually 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:
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.
References Return to top
Weisberg SS. Vaccine preventable diseases: current perspectives in historical context. Dis Mon. 2007;53:467-528.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended Immunization Schedule for Ages 7 - 18 Years. United States. 2009.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended Immunization Schedule for Adults. United States. 2009.Update Date: 3/14/2009 Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.