All About Rubella: Signs, Symptoms, and Prevention

About Rubella

What is Rubella?

Rubella, also known as the German measles, is a highly contagious virus-caused infection. It is spread through contact with infected nose and throat secretions and is distinguishable by a swollen lymph node in the neck area, a rash, and fever. As the disease is airborne, it can also spread through sneezing, coughing, and contact with contaminated surfaces. As much as 85% of individuals infected with rubella experience no symptoms. Although rubella is rarely fatal, it can cause serious birth defects, including visual and hearing impairments, mental retardation and heart defects, when pregnant women are infected.

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Signs & Symptoms

Rubella symptoms usually start to appear 2-3 weeks after exposure to an infected person, although they may take up to 3 months to appear. The signs and symptoms of rubella include:

  • A pink rash that usually begins on the face, then spreads to the chest, arms and legs
  • Enlarged lymph nodes on the neck and behind the ears
  • A fever, usually less than 101.3 degrees Fahrenheit
  • A headache and general feeling of tiredness
  • Red and itchy eyes
  • Aching muscles


In rare cases, rubella can cause serious complications, especially in pregnant women. Possible complications include:

  • Damage to the heart, brain or other organs
  • Hearing loss
  • Miscarriage or stillbirth
  • Other birth defects in babies

Prevention & Treatment of Rubella

The best way to prevent the spread of rubella is through immunization with the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. It’s important to speak with your doctor to make sure that you and your family are up to date on all necessary immunizations.

When it comes to treatment, there is no specific treatment for rubella. Treatment focuses on relieving symptoms. Recommended treatments include:

  • Rest and drinking plenty of fluids
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce fever, sore throat, and headache
  • Antibiotics to prevent or treat any secondary bacterial infections

Anyone who suspects they have been exposed to rubella should visit a doctor as soon as possible. Early detection is the best way to prevent severe complications.

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