Rubella

Did you know? 

Rubella infection in early pregnancy can cause serious harm to the unborn baby. 

The disease

  • Rubella, also known as German measles, is a disease caused by the rubella virus.
  • Rubella is spread by contact with saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose or throat of an infected person. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, the virus spreads through droplets in the air.
  • Rubella is usually a mild illness but can be very serious for pregnant women and their developing babies
  • It can cause serious complications and birth defects in unborn babies, including deafness, eye problems, heart defects, liver damage, and brain damage. This is called Congenital Rubella Syndrome. It occurs in about 9 out of 10 babies born to women who become infected with the virus in the first 3 months of their pregnancy. Rubella can also cause miscarriage or stillbirth.
  • If you are a woman of childbearing age, make sure you are immune to rubella before getting pregnant. If you are not immune you should get the MMR vaccine, and then wait one month before getting pregnant.

The vaccine

The rubella vaccine is given as the combined measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine.

  • Children are routinely given two doses of the MMR vaccine. The first dose is given at 12 months and the second dose is given at 4-6 years of age.  Children 4 - 12 years of age who also need protection against chickenpox (varicella) can get their second dose as the combined Measles, Mumps, Rubella and Varicella (MMRV) vaccine.
  • Older children and teens who have not been immunized should also get two doses of the MMR vaccine. While a single dose of rubella-containing vaccine is recommended for rubella protection, two doses of measles and mumps vaccines are required for protection against these diseases.
  • One dose of rubella-containing vaccine is recommended for adults born in 1957 or later who have not had rubella disease (for those who have had rubella disease laboratory evidence of rubella immunity or laboratory confirmed acute rubella infection is required). 
  • Adults born before 1957 are assumed to have protection against rubella from natural infection. 
  • Health care workers need one dose of rubella-containing vaccine (there is no age above which protection against rubella can be assumed for health care workers).