• Thu. Jun 30th, 2022

Rubella is a contagious viral infection that is very popular for its unique red rash. It is also known as German measles or three-day measles. The infection can cause mild symptoms or most people have no symptoms at all, and it can cause severe problems for unborn babies whose mothers become infected during pregnancy.

Rubella is not like measles, but both diseases share some symptoms, including a red rash. Rubella is caused by a different virus than measles and is not as severe as rubella infection or measles.

In many countries, rubella infection is rare or even nonexistent. However, because the vaccine isn’t used everywhere, the virus still causes serious problems for babies whose mothers are infected during pregnancy.


The signs and symptoms of rubella can be difficult to notice, especially in children. Symptoms usually appear within two to three weeks of being infected. They usually last one to five days and may include the following:

  • Headache
  • Mild fever of 102 F (38.9 C) or lower
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Inflamed, red eyes
  • Enlarged, tender lymph nodes at the base of the skull, the back of the neck, and behind the ears
  • A thin, pink rash begins on the face and quickly spreads to the torso and then to the arms and legs, disappearing in the same order
  • Aching joints, especially in young women


Rubella is caused by a virus that spreads from person to person. It is spread when the infected person coughs or sneezes. It is also spread by direct contact with the respiratory secretions of the infected person, such as mucus. It also spreads through the bloodstream from pregnant women to their unborn children.

A person infected with the virus that causes rubella will have the rash go away for about one to two weeks and then become infected for about one or two weeks. An infected person can spread the disease before they even realize it.

Rubella is rare in many countries because most children are vaccinated at an early age. In some parts of the world, the virus is still active. This should be considered before going abroad, especially if you are pregnant.


Rubella is a mildly infectious disease. Once you get the disease, you will usually be permanently immune. Some women with rubella develop arthritis of the fingers, wrists, and knees, which usually lasts about a month. In rare cases, rubella can cause ear infection or inflammation of the brain.

However, if you are pregnant and you have rubella, the effects on your unborn baby can be severe and sometimes dangerous. Up to 80% of babies born to mothers infected with rubella in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy develop congenital rubella syndrome. This syndrome can cause one or more complications, including:

  • Deafness
  • Growth delays
  • Cataracts
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Defects in other organs

The fetus is at high risk in the first trimester but is also at risk of developing late in pregnancy.

When to see a doctor

Contact your doctor if you think you or your child may be infected with rubella or have any of the symptoms listed above.

If you are pregnant, check your immunization record to make sure you have your MMR vaccine. If you are pregnant and you develop rubella, especially during your first trimester, the virus can cause death or severe birth defects in the developing fetus. Rubella is the most common cause of congenital deafness during pregnancy. It is good to protect against rubella before pregnancy.

If you are pregnant, you will be routinely tested for rubella immunity. But if you have not been vaccinated and you think you may have rubella, contact your doctor immediately. A blood test can confirm that you are already immune.