Rubella is usually a mild viral illness. However it is extremely dangerous for pregnant women because it can cause deafness, blindness and brain damage in an unborn baby.

Normally it causes fever, swollen neck glands and a rash on the face, scalp and body, however complications include encephalitis (brain inflammation) which may lead to brain damage or death.

Other complications, as mentioned above, are it is a serious risk to pregnant women, particularly in their first 8 weeks of pregnancy (results in fetal damage in up to 85% of infants, IMAC Handbook 2014, p.440).

How is it spread?

Coughing and sneezing. Also direct contact with nose/throat secretions of an infected person, eg. kissing, and sharing of food and drink.

Time between exposure and illness

Between 14-23 days. Usually about 16-18 days.

Infectious period

Seven days before rash starts until at least 7 days after it has appeared. Nb. Infants who contracted Rubella in utero may be infectious for months.

Prevention of spread to others

Exclude child from school, child care, and non-family contacts until at least 7 days after the rash appears.

It is recommended that all contacts of a rubella case who have not had rubella disease or 2 doses of a rubella vaccine, receive rubella vaccine. Unimmunised contacts who do not have antibodies confirmed by a blood test may be excluded from school, preschool or childcare  by the Medical Officer of Health.

Important Reminder

Vaccination is the only effective way to prevent rubella. MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine is part of the routine childhood immunisation schedule and is given free at 15 months and 4 years of age. These two doses are over 99% effective in providing protection.