Rubella Fact Sheet

Rubella (German measles) is caused by a virus

Rubella virus is spread by contact with discharges from nose or throat

The virus is usually shed in the discharges from about 7 days before the rash until at least 4 days after the rash begins. Rubella virus is passed to the next person by direct contact with the secretions. Babies with rubella acquired at or before birth can continue to shed virus in nose and throat secretions and in urine for 1 year or more. Anyone can get rubella except those who have had rubella or rubella vaccine.

Symptoms to look for,

Low fever,

Rash (lasts 3 days or less),

Joint aches,

Swollen glands, especially behind the ears and the back of the neck,

Symptoms start within 16-18 days after exposure, with a range of 14-23 days.

Up to half of all people who get rubella don't have any symptoms.

Unborn babies are at high risk of rubella complications,

Most children and adults fully recover from rubella with few complications. However, rubella infection in a pregnant woman during the first 3 months of pregnancy can result in miscarriage, fetal death, or a baby with deafness, eye, heart, liver or skin problems, or mental retardation.

Rubella can be prevented with rubella vaccine,

Every child should get rubella vaccine at 12 months of age. Rubella vaccine is given in the same shot with measles and mumps vaccines and is called measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. Women of childbearing age who haven't had rubella or rubella vaccine should get vaccinated with rubella vaccine before they become pregnant. Women should not get vaccinated if they are pregnant or plan to become pregnant within 3 months after getting vaccine. Rubella vaccine is required for school attendance.

A pregnant woman should check with her doctor if she has been in contact with a case,

A pregnant woman should have a blood test to determine whether she could catch rubella. If a pregnant woman is found to have no immunity, then she should avoid contact with a person who has rubella and get a rubella shot after delivery. Current medical practice indicates that all pregnant women do not need to be excluded from settings where rubella is occurring since the risk to the pregnant woman will depend on whether the woman is already immune to rubella. Each exposure needs to be individually evaluated. If the woman hasn't already been tested, the doctor will want to check her blood to determine whether she could catch rubella. Her doctor or the local health department can then counsel her about the risk to her unborn baby.

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