Facts about Rubella for Adults

What is rubella?
Rubella, also called German measles, is caused by a virus that is spread from person to person when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Rubella is also spread by direct contact with the nose or throat secretions of an infected person. If a woman gets rubella during pregnancy, particularly during the first three months, her baby is at risk of having serious birth defects.

Symptoms
Symptoms of rubella may include a rash, slight fever, aching joints, and reddened eyes. The rash first appears on the face and spreads from head to toe. The lymph nodes just behind the ears and at the back of the neck may swell, causing soreness and pain. Many people with rubella have few or no symptoms, and up to half of the people who have the disease may not get a rash. In most cases of rubella, symptoms appear within 16 to 18 days after exposure to the virus.

Prevention
There is a safe and effective vaccine to protect against rubella. The vaccine is given as part of a combination vaccine, called the MMR vaccine that protects against measles, mumps, and rubella.

Who should get vaccinated against rubella with MMR vaccine? 

  • Adults born in 1957 or later and non-pregnant women of childbearing age no matter what year they were born should receive at least one dose of the MMR vaccine, unless they have a contraindication or documentation of vaccination with at least one dose of rubella-containing vaccine or other acceptable evidence of immunity to rubella.
  • College and university students, healthcare personnel, and international travelers are at increased risk for rubella and should receive one dose of the MMR vaccine or have other acceptable evidence of immunity to rubella, regardless of age, to ensure adequate protection.

Vaccine safety
The MMR vaccine is very safe and highly effective with few side effects. Mild reactions such as fever, redness, or swelling at the injection site have been reported. Adult women may infrequently have joint symptoms like pain and stiffness from the rubella part 
of the vaccine. 

As with any medicine, there are very small risks that serious problems could occur after getting the vaccine. However, the potential risks associated with measles, mumps, and rubella are much greater than the potential risks associated with the vaccine. MMR vaccine should not be given to persons who are pregnant or severely immunosuppressed. 

Disease and vaccine facts
  • FACT: Rubella can be prevented with a safe and effective vaccine. 
  • FACT: Rubella is contagious from seven days before until seven days after the rash appears. 
  • FACT:  In most cases of rubella, symptoms appear within 16 to 18 days, and 20 to 50 percent of people may not exhibit symptoms. 
  • FACT:  If a pregnant woman gets rubella during the first three months of pregnancy, her baby has a good chance of having serious birth defects such as deafness, cataracts, heart defects, liver and spleen damage, and mental retardation
  • FACT:  From 2001 to 2010, 79 percent of all reported cases of rubella occurred among people age 15 years and older.

January 2012

For more information, speak with your healthcare professional or visit www.Adultvaccination.org.