What is Rubella?

Rubella is an infection that affects mostly the skin and lymph nodes.  Known as the German Measles, The Rubella virus can spread via several methods, including:

  • Direct contact with an infected person
  • Through the air, such as when an infected person coughs, talks or sneezes

This illness is not particularly aggressive and many people who contracted it at some point may not have even realized it. It is characterized by a red rash that starts 10 to 15 days after exposure and that usually lasts for approximately three days.

What are the Symptoms of Rubella?

Rubella symptoms may show within a couple of days of mild fever and tender lymph nodes, usually in the back of the neck. A rash can begin showing on the face and spread downward.

A rubella rash is often the first sign of illness can be seen. It may appear as either pink or red spots that can merge to form evenly colored patches. The rash can become very itchy and last up to 3-4 days, sometimes longer.  As the rash clears, parts of the skin may start to flake off.

Some of the other symptoms of Rubella can include loss of appetite, sinus congestion and swollen joints.  Some people who contract Rubella may show no symptoms.  Rubella in some pregnant women can cause congenital rubella syndrome.  This is a disease with potentially devastating consequences for the developing fetus. Children who are infected with rubella before birth are at risk for potentially significant lifelong health problems for the child.

How is Rubella Treated?

Because Rubella is caused by a virus rather than a form of bacteria, there is no specific treatment available.  Healthcare providers can prescribe medications with the goal of symptom relief in mind.  Someone with Rubella should stay clear of others in their household.  It will be important to maintain a heightened sense of hygiene in order to prevent the infection from spreading.

An MMR vaccine (administered to toddlers at 12 to 15 months) protects against measles, mumps and rubella. This vaccination requires a second dose that needs to be given to children between at age 4 to 6 (right before first grade).

Last Reviewed:
October 09, 2016
Last Updated:
August 23, 2017