Rubella

What is rubella?

Rubella, also called German measles, is a disease caused by a virus. People with rubella spread the virus through the air when they cough or sneeze.

Many people who get rubella never have symptoms or have only mild symptoms. For people who have symptoms, a red rash is typically the first sign. Other symptoms can include fever, headache, red eyes, general discomfort, swollen and enlarged lymph nodes, cough, and runny nose.

Rubella infection in a pregnant woman is dangerous. If a pregnant woman gets rubella, her baby could have birth defects such as deafness, cataracts, heart defects, mental disabilities, and organ damage.

Who is at risk?

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 against rubella. Rubella is a routine vaccination that children in the United States receive for the first time at 12-15 months of age. It is a combination vaccine that also protects against measles and mumps (MMR vaccine). The vaccine is given in 2 doses, with the second dose is given at least 28 days after the first dose.

If you were born in or after 1957 and have never had rubella and have never been vaccinated against rubella, you can get rubella. You should get 2 doses of MMR vaccine before you travel, the second dose is given 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 1 dose MMR vaccine before travel. This dose does not count as the first dose in the routine childhood vaccination series.

CAUTION: Pregnant women should NOT get MMR vaccine. A pregnant woman not vaccinated against rubella should not travel to countries where there is rubella or areas with known rubella outbreaks, especially during the first 20 weeks of her pregnancy. A woman not vaccinated against rubella should be vaccinated against this disease immediately after her baby is born.

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If you traveled and feel sick, particularly if you have a fever, talk to a healthcare provider and tell them about your travel. Avoid contact with other people while you are sick.

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

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