Rubella is a mild febrile rash illness caused by rubella virus. It is transmitted from person to person via droplets (the virus is present in throat secretions). It affects mainly, but not only, children and when pregnant women are infected, it may result in malformation of the foetus. Humans are the only reservoir of infection.
About 20–50% of rubella infections remain without symptoms. In symptomatic cases, after an incubation period of 2–3 weeks, patients develop swollen lymph glands, malaise, rash, and upper respiratory tract symptoms. Fever is not always present. Adult and adolescent females often manifest joint pain and joint inflammation. Rare complications include skin bleedings, brain infection, neuritis, and inflammation of the testicles.
The most serious consequences of rubella infection occur when it is acquired during the first 3 months of pregnancy. In this situation the virus can affect all the organs of the developing foetus, causing foetal death, miscarriage, or congenital malformation. An infant infected with rubella during pregnancy can continue to shed the virus for about one year, sometimes longer.
Read more about rubella in the factsheet for health professionals.