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Rubella (German Measles)

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 mother gets infected, the virus can also cause serious birth defects. The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine protects against rubella.


In children, rubella usually causes a rash that starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body and low-grade fever (less than 101 degrees). These symptoms may last two or three days. Older children with rubella usually first suffer from low-grade fever, swollen glands in the neck or behind the ears, and upper respiratory infection, before they develop a rash.

Adults (especially in young women) also may have aching joints. About half of the people who get rubella do not have symptoms.

Rubella is usually mild in children. Complications are not common, but they occur more often in adults. In rare cases, rubella can cause serious problems, including brain infections and bleeding problems.

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 MMR vaccine can help prevent rubella. Two doses of the vaccine are recommended. The first dose is usually given at age 12 to 15 months; the second dose is given at age 4 to 6 years.

Additional Resources

Facts About Rubella for Adults

If a woman gets rubella during pregnancy, particularly during the first three months, her baby is at risk of having serious birth defects