Rubella (German measles) is caused by rubella virus, a member of the Togaviridae family. Rubella virus is spread by droplets from coughing and sneezing or direct contact with secretions from the nose and mouth of infected people. The virus is also spread from an infected mother to her fetus through the placenta during pregnancy and may result in congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) in the infant.
Adults and children who are infected with the rubella virus mostly have a mild illness with symptoms including a red rash and low grade fever. Up to half of those with rubella will have no symptoms at all. The infection is usually mild enough not to require medical attention. Adults may also experience brief periods of joint pain. Serious complications in children and non-pregnant adults are rare.
Rubella infection during pregnancy, especially in the first 13 weeks, may cause CRS, which can result in miscarriage, stillbirth or fetal abnormalities such as: congenital heart disease, cataracts, deafness and long term mental developmental delays.
Routine infant immunization programs in Ontario and across Canada have successfully eliminated transmission of rubella virus and CRS in Canada, although rarely cases of CRS may occur through prenatal infection acquired in areas of the world where rubella is common.
Rubella Vaccine is given in Ontario on or after the first birthday as part of measles mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. A second dose of MMR vaccine is also given between 4 and 6 years of age to protect against measles and mumps, however only one dose of the vaccine is required for rubella protection.