Conditions & Treatments

Rubella (German Measles)

Rubella, sometimes called German measles, is an acute viral infection that causes a mild illness in children and slightly more severe illness in adults.

Rubella (German Measles)

What is rubella (German measles)?

Rubella, sometimes called German measles, is an acute viral infection that causes a mild illness in children and slightly more severe illness in adults. The disease is spread person-to-person through airborne particles and takes two to three weeks to incubate. Although the illness is mostly mild, the virus can cause serious birth defects. The vaccine is effective, and the illness, along with the birth defects it causes, is preventable. 

What are the symptoms of rubella?

The following are the most common symptoms of rubella. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Rash (usually begins at the face and progresses to the trunk and extremities and lasts about three days)

  • Slight fever

  • Enlarged lymph nodes

  • Headache

Rubella in pregnant women may cause serious complications in the fetus, including a range of severe birth defects.

The symptoms of rubella may resemble other medical conditions. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How is rubella diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and medical examination, diagnosis is often confirmed with a throat culture and blood testing.

What is the treatment for rubella?

Specific treatment for rubella will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your overall health and medical history

  • Extent of the condition

  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the condition

  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment for rubella is usually limited to acetaminophen for fever.

How is rubella prevented?

Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) is a combination childhood vaccination that protects against these three viruses. MMR provides immunity to most people. People who have had rubella are immune for life.

Usually, the first dose of the MMR vaccine is administered when a child is 12 months old, and a second dose is given at 4 to 6 years of age. However, if 28 days have passed since the first dose was administered, a second dose may be given before the age of 4.

Treatment Programs


Massachusetts General Hospital understands that a variety of factors influence patients' health care decisions. That's just one reason why we're dedicated to ensuring patients understand their diagnosis and treatment options. Because a single option might not serve all patients, we offer a wide range of coordinated treatments and related services across the hospital. Patients should consult with their primary care doctor or other qualified health care provider for medical advice and diagnosis information.

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