What is rubella?

Rubella, also called German measles, is a contagious disease caused by a virus. People with rubella can spread it when they cough or sneeze. Pregnant women infected with rubella can pass it on to their developing babies.

Many people who get rubella never have symptoms or have only mild symptoms. For people who have symptoms, they may include a red rash that starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. Other symptoms include low-grade fever, headache, mild pink eye, general discomfort, swollen and enlarged lymph nodes, cough, and runny nose.

While most adults who get rubella have only mild symptoms, rubella infection is especially dangerous during pregnancy. Pregnant women who get rubella can have miscarriages or stillbirths, and their developing babies are at risk for severe birth defects with devastating, lifelong consequences

Who is at risk?

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Where are you going?

Rubella has been eliminated through vaccination in South and North America, including the United States. It still exists in other parts of the world. Travelers going to areas with rubella who have not been vaccinated can get infected.

What can travelers do to prevent rubella?

Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself against rubella. Rubella vaccine is routinely given to children in the United States. The vaccine is given in two doses: children usually get the first dose when they are 12 to 15 months old and the second dose when they are 4 to 6 years old. Rubella vaccine is a combination vaccine that also protects against measles and mumps (MMR vaccine) or measles, mumps, and varicella (MMRV vaccine).

If you were born after 1956 and do not have evidence of immunity, you should get vaccinated with two doses of MMR vaccine before you travel. The second dose is given at least 28 days after the first dose. People born before 1957 do not need to be vaccinated with the MMR vaccine.

Infants 6 to 11 months old traveling internationally should get one dose of MMR vaccine before travel. This dose does not count as part of the routine childhood vaccination series.

CAUTION: Pregnant people should avoid all exposures to the rubella virus. This means NOT getting the MMR vaccine during pregnancy. It also means that anyone who is pregnant and not already vaccinated against rubella should not travel to countries with rubella or areas with known rubella outbreaks. This is especially true during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy when the risk for a miscarriage or severe birth defects from rubella virus infection is greatest. Any pregnant person not already vaccinated against rubella should get the MMR vaccine immediately after the pregnancy.

Avoid getting pregnant for at least 4 weeks after receiving the MMR vaccine.

After Travel


If you traveled and feel sick, particularly if you have a fever, talk to a healthcare provider and tell them about your travel. 

If you need medical care abroad, see Getting Health Care During Travel.


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