The Travel Health and Vaccine Specialists

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Disease Directory


What is rubella?
Rubella, also called German measles, is a disease spread by the coughs and sneezes of infected people. Symptoms include rash and fever for 2 to 3 days. Some people do not feel sick. If a pregnant woman gets rubella virus, 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 in the United States. Travelers going outside the United States are at risk for rubella. Because rubella infections without symptoms are common, travelers may be unaware that they have been in contact with an infected person.

What can travelers do to prevent rubella?
Get a rubella vaccine:

  • People who cannot show that they were vaccinated as children and who have never had rubella should be vaccinated.
  • The only rubella vaccines available in the United States are the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and the measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) vaccines.
  • Adolescents and adults who have not had rubella or have not been vaccinated with MMR should get 2 doses, separated by at least 28 days.
  • Infants 6 months through 11 months of age should have 1 dose of MMR vaccine if traveling internationally.
    • Children in the United States routinely receive MMR vaccination at age 12–15 months
  • Children 12 months of age or older should have 2 doses, separated by at least 28 days.
  • MMR has been used safely and effectively since the 1970s. A few people experience mild, temporary adverse reactions, such as joint pain, from the vaccine, but serious side effects are extremely rare. There is no link between MMR and autism.

Practice hygiene and cleanliness:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • If soap and water aren’t available, clean hands with hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol).
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you need to touch your face, make sure your hands are clean.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Try to avoid close contact, such as kissing, hugging, or sharing eating utensils or cups with people who are sick.