Rubella is a contagious viral infection. While rubella virus infection usually causes a mild fever and rash in children and adults, infection during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester, can result in miscarriage, fetal death, stillbirth, or infants with congenital malformations, known as congenital rubella syndrome (CRS).
The rubella virus is transmitted by airborne droplets when infected people sneeze or cough.
Rubella virus was first isolated in 1962 by two independent groups, Paul D. Parkman and colleagues and Thomas H. Weller and Franklin A. Neva. The first Rubella vaccines were licensed in 1969. In 1971, a combined measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine was licensed in the United States. In 2005, a combination Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and Varicella (MMRV) vaccine was licensed.
Before developing the vaccine in the United States, Rubella was a common disease that occurred primarily among young children. The last major outbreak in the United States occurred from 1964 to 1965, with an estimated 12.5 million Rubella cases. Because of successful vaccination programs, Rubella has been eliminated from the United States since 2004.
For some people—especially pregnant women and their unborn babies, Rubella can be serious. Complications can result in miscarriage, stillbirth, and birth defects, including cataracts, hearing loss, mental retardation, and congenital heart defects.
The first Rubella virus vaccine is given to a child who is 12 to 15-month-old. The booster shots are between 4 and 6 years of age. A Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine should be given before the child starts elementary school.
You should not receive a Rubella virus vaccine if you are pregnant. Wait until after your child is born to receive the vaccine. Avoid becoming pregnant for at least 3 months after receiving a Rubella virus vaccine.
In children, rubella is typically mild, with few seen symptoms. For those who do have symptoms, a red rash tends to be the first sign. The rash generally first appears on the face and then spreads to the rest of the body and lasts approximately three days. Other symptoms that may occur 1 to 5 days before a rash appears include:
a low-grade fever
mild pink eye
swollen and enlarged lymph nodes
Most adults who contract Rubella experience a mild illness, consisting of low-grade fever, sore throat, and rash that starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body.
Some adults may also have a headache, pink eye, and general discomfort before the rash appears.
About 25 to 50% of people infected with Rubella will not experience any symptoms.