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Immunizations: Rubella (German Measles)

Close up of rubella bacteria

Rubella is a viral infection. It is contagious and spreads from person to person.

Rubella is also called German measles, or three-day measles. However, rubella is caused by a different virus than measles.

A vaccine can prevent rubella

The best way to prevent rubella is to get the vaccine.

Learn more about the rubella vaccine

Rubella 101

Rubella is contagious and spreads from person to person. It can spread by direct contact or droplets in the air. An infected person can spread droplets when they talk, cough, or sneeze.

Symptoms typically appear 12–23 days after the person is exposed to the virus.

  • In younger children rubella usually starts with a rash on the face and neck. The rash can last two or three days. The rash can be hard to see on dark skin, but it might feel rough or bumpy.
  • Older children and adults may have a low-grade fever, swollen glands in the neck, and a respiratory infection before the rash begins.
  • Up to 70% of women with rubella have joint pain.

Rubella can be dangerous in pregnant people because it can harm the baby. A fetus has a 90% chance of being born with congenital rubella syndrome if a woman catches rubella in early pregnancy. This syndrome can cause deafness, blindness, developmental disabilities, heart defects, and/or death just after birth.

A doctor can confirm the disease through a blood test. There is no specific treatment for rubella.

The best way to avoid rubella is to get a vaccine.

The MMR vaccine protects against three diseases: mumps, measles, and rubella. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the MMR vaccine for:

  • All children.
  • Women who are considering pregnancy and aren’t vaccinated.
  • People 6 months of age and older who’ll be traveling to any country outside the United States and aren’t vaccinated.

The CDC recommends children get two doses of the MMR vaccine:

  • First dose at 12–15 months of age.
  • Second dose at 4–6 years of age.

Teens and adults also should be up to date on MMR vaccinations. Find out if you and your children are up to date. Check our Department of Health Services (DHS) Wisconsin Immunization Registry.

If you’re worried about cost, your family may be eligible for free vaccines. Read about our Vaccines For Children and Vaccines For Adults programs.

Just for health care providers

Rubella is a communicable disease. Health care providers must report cases of rubella.

Rubella is a Wisconsin Disease Surveillance Category I disease.

Report it right away to the patient’s local public health department. Call as soon as you identify a confirmed or suspected case. The health department then notifies the state epidemiologist.

Within 24 hours, submit a case report through one of the following:

Read more about required disease reporting in Wisconsin.

Case reporting and public health guidelines

Contact us


Last revised January 3, 2023