Rubella (German Measles)


Rubella is a disease caused by a virus. It causes a mild illness with swollen glands, slight fever and a rash. The biggest threat from Rubella is to the fetus if the mother gets infected. Many babies born to a mother who gets infected during pregnancy will develop severe birth defects known as congenital rubella syndrome.

Rubella is reportable to the Iowa Department of Public Health by Iowa Administrative Code 641 IAC 1.


Signs and symptoms will begin about 14 to 17 days after being infected with rubella and include:

  • Fever
  • Joint pain
  • Red swollen eyes
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Rash (flat red areas, with raised bumps )

The following complications may occur with unborn babies:

  • Blindness
  • Heart defects
  • Deafness
  • Mental or growth retardation
  • Bone disease
  • Enlarged liver and spleen
  • Low platelet count (thrombocytopenia)
  • Purple skin lesions


Rubella is caused by breathing in a virus carried on droplets from an infected person's coughs and sneezes or in the blood stream to the fetus of a pregnant woman. People can spread rubella for several days before they get the rash until several days after the rash develops.

Risk Factors

It is recommended that children be vaccinated against rubella at 12 months and 4 years of age. Those who have not had these two doses of vaccine are at risk for rubella. Rubella vaccine is one of the most effective vaccines used today.


The best way to prevent rubella is to get vaccinated with a rubella containing vaccine. Visit CDC’s 2012 Child & Adolescent Immunization Schedules website details on vaccination schedules.

Rubella vaccine is usually given at 12 months and 4 years of age. Usually it is combined with mumps and measles vaccine (MMR). Two doses of MMR vaccine are very effective at preventing rubella infection throughout life.

Rubella vaccine is required for entry into Iowa public and private schools, as well as licensed child care centers and preschools. Following the Iowa requirements on immunization greatly reduces the risk of children catching rubella.

A person thought to have rubella will usually be isolated (kept away from other people or public places) for a period of time. Those people who have been exposed to rubella and are thought they may be susceptible to the disease may be quarantined (kept away from other people from day 7 though day 21 after their last exposure).


  • There is no cure for rubella.
  • Children with congenital rubella syndrome usually will be kept away from other people until tests show they no longer can spread rubella.
  • Administration of vaccine after someone has been exposed to rubella will usually not prevent the disease, but it may help to give vaccine to unimmunized people to prevent future cases.


No cases of rubella have been reported in Iowa since 2001.

For more detailed information and statistics on all notifiable diseases, please see our current annual report located in the reports section of the CADE homepage.

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