Rubella, sometimes called “German measles,” is a disease caused by a virus. The infection is usually mild with fever and rash, but if a pregnant woman gets infected, the virus can cause serious birth defects. The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine protects against rubella. Women should make sure they are protected from rubella before they get pregnant.
Complications of rubella are rare, but they occur more often in adults. Adults (especially young women) may have aching joints, headache, and pink eye before the rash appears. Up to 70 percent of women who get rubella may experience arthritis; this is rare in children and men. In rare cases, rubella can cause serious problems, including brain infections and bleeding problems.
About 25-50 percent of people who get rubella do not have symptoms.
Rubella is very dangerous for pregnant women and their developing babies.
Rubella spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes and touches objects or surfaces with unwashed hands. The disease is most contagious when the infected person has a rash. But it can spread up to seven days before the rash appears and up to seven days after. People without symptoms can still spread rubella.
The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine can help prevent rubella. Two doses of the vaccine are recommended. Teens and adults, including healthcare professionals, should be up to date on their MMR vaccination.
Updated June 2020
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention