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Rubella (German measles) is spread through sneezing, coughing or direct contact with respiratory secretions. It can cause a mild viral infection, but in pregnancy (maternal rubella) can lead to miscarriage or multiple birth defects.

Recommendations for Travellers

Individuals should ensure that they have received two doses of MMR prior to travel to areas where the risk of rubella is high. Those who were born between 1980 and 1990 may not have received two doses of MMR vaccine. Individuals born between this time should check with their G.P. to ensure that they have received vaccination. Prior infection with rubella will provide lifelong immunity against that particular disease.

This disease is still common in much of Asia, Africa, the Indian sub-continent and South America. More recently there have been outbreaks of rubella in Poland and  Japan.

The risk is greater when living or working with local people or travelling for large gatherings (e.g. sporting and music events).


The two vaccines that protect against rubella are combined with measles and mumps (MMR). Currently used vaccines in the UK are: M-M-RVAXPRO and Priorix. MMR vaccine is usually given to children as part of the national childhood schedule, in infancy and prior to starting school. Two doses of vaccine give long-lasting protection against all three diseases.

Overview of the Disease

Rubella, often called german measles, is a viral infection usually has mild symptoms and typically gets better without treatment in 7 to 10 days.

Rubella occurs throughout the world and is transmitted by sneezing, coughing or direct contact with respiratory secretions.

The Illness

Rubella can cause general symptoms such as:

  • A red-pink skin rash.
  • Swollen glands around the head and neck.
  • High temperature (fever).
  • Cold-like symptoms such as a cough and runny nose.
  • Aching and painful joints.

In pregnancy the infection (maternal rubella) may result in miscarriage or multiple birth defects (congenital rubella syndrome) such as deafness, cardiac abnormalities, cataracts and other eye defects.


There is no specific treatment available.

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