Measles Home > Rubella

Rubella is a condition that is similar to measles. Symptoms include a rash, mild fever, and swollen lymph glands. Rubella can be transmitted through coughing or sneezing, or by touching an infected surface and then touching the nose or mouth. Most people recover without any serious complications; however, the disease can have a serious effect on developing fetuses.

What Is Rubella?

Rubella is a mild viral illness that lasts for about three days. However, when the disease occurs in pregnant women, it can pose a serious threat to the developing fetus.
Rubella is also known as German measles or three-day measles. However, it has nothing to do with Germany; it comes from the Latin word "germanus," meaning "similar," since rubella and measles share similar symptoms.

What Causes It?

The cause of rubella is an infection with a specific virus. This is an RNA (ribonucleic acid) virus from the family Togaviridae and the genus Rubivirus.

How Is Rubella Transmitted?

Rubella virus resides in the mucus in the nose and throat of the infected person. When that person sneezes or coughs, droplets spray into the air. The infected mucus can land in other people's noses or throats when they breathe or put their fingers in their mouth or nose after touching an infected surface.
(Click Rubella Transmission for more information.)

Contagious Period for the Disease

When a person becomes infected with virus, it begins to multiply within the cells that line the back of the throat and the nose. The virus can also spread through the bloodstream or lymph system to other parts of the body. After 14 to 21 days, rubella symptoms can appear. This period between transmission and the start of symptoms is known as the "incubation period."
A person with rubella is contagious anytime from about seven days prior to the onset of the rash to seven days after the rash appears. A person can spread the virus if he or she becomes infected, even if symptoms never develop.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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