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Rubella (German Measles)

What is rubella?
What are the symptoms of rubella?
How is rubella spread?
How can I keep from getting rubella?
If I’ve been exposed to rubella, how long will it take for symptoms to develop?
What should I do if I think I have been exposed?
What treatments are available for rubella? How serious is the disease?
How many cases of rubella have been reported in Northern Kentucky? Nationally?
Where can I get more information on rubella?

What is rubella?
Rubella, or German measles, is caused by the rubella virus. It is a mild illness that can be prevented by immunization. However, if a pregnant woman contracts rubella, there could be harmful effects for her baby. Therefore, pregnant women who have been exposed to rubella should contact their health care provider immediately.

What are the symptoms of rubella?
The symptoms of rubella include rash, low-grade fever, and swollen glands in the area behind the ears. Many children have no symptoms. Adults may have aching joints.

How is rubella spread?
Rubella is spread by droplets expelled during sneezing, coughing or talking. Rubella is also spread via direct contact with the nose or throat fluids of an infected person. Rubella is contagious from seven days before until five to seven days after the appearance of rash.

How can I keep from getting rubella?Boy getting an immunization, courtesy of the Public Health Image Library
Rubella can be prevented by immunization. Since the vaccine was developed in 1969, infants and children have received immunization as part of the MMR –measles, mumps, rubella –vaccine trio.

The vaccine is first given at age 12-15 months and a second dose is given between age 4 and 6 years.

Kentucky law requires that all children in child care or school settings be immunized.  If you or your child is not protected against rubella, please call your health care provider as soon as possible to obtain your immunizations. Unimmunized children will be excluded from any child care setting in which a case of rubella occurs. Please notify your child care provider when you have your child immunized so his/her record can be updated.

According to the CDC, approximately 93 percent of children under the age of 3 have been immunized for rubella.

If you were born before 1969, it is possible that you were exposed to rubella, but do not assume you have immunity without confirmation by a lab test.  

If I’ve been exposed to rubella, how long will it take for symptoms to develop?
The initial symptoms of rubella take two to three weeks to develop —usually 16 to 18 days after exposure.

What should I do if I think I have been exposed?
Contact your health care provider if you are pregnant and have been exposed to rubella. Contacts of confirmed cases should be vaccinated, but this does not necessarily prevent additional cases.

If you develop a rash, fever and swollen glands behind the ears, please stay at home and call your health care provider.

What treatments are available for rubella? How serious is the disease?
There is no treatment for rubella. The illness runs its course within a few days.

Rubella isn’t usually a serious illness in children, but it can be very serious for a pregnant woman. The infection is likely to spread to the fetus, potentially causing congenital rubella syndrome, which can result in miscarriages, stillbirths and severe birth defects.

How many cases of rubella have been reported in Northern Kentucky? Nationally?
There have been no cases of rubella reported in Northern Kentucky. Overall, fewer than 10 cases of rubella are reported in the U.S. each year. Most cases originated in other countries.

Where can I get more information on rubella?
For more information online, you can visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or you can call the Health Department at 859.363.2070.

Sources: Northern Kentucky Health Department, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention