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revised June 12, 2014

Arrow BulletRubella - Just the Facts


What is Rubella?

  • Rubella, also known as German Measles, is a viral infection mainly affecting children.
  • However, it can be more severe in adults, especially women.
  • It is caused by the Rubella virus. Rubella spreads by contact with an infected person through coughing, sneezing or even talking.
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What are the signs and symptoms?

  • Rubella is a mild illness characterized by a low grade fever, swelling of the glands in the neck and sometimes a rash with small red spots resembling measles or scarlet fever.
  • Some people may experience aches, pains and swelling of the joints. Half of rubella infections occur without a rash.
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Who is at risk?

  • Those who have had rubella infection before or have been immunized against rubella (MMR) will have long standing immunity.
  • Anyone without prior infection or proper immunization is at risk.
  • If you are unsure your immune status, your physician can perform a blood test to find out.
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How Can You Prevent Rubella?

  • Immunization provides the best protection against rubella.
  • The MMR vaccine protects against 3 diseases: measles, mumps and rubella.
  • The vaccine is provided free in Ontario as part of the publicly funded routine immunization schedule.
  • Children should receive the first dose of MMR on or after the first birthday.
  • The second dose is given as a combined MMR and varicella (chicken pox) vaccine at 4-6 years of age; prior to starting school.
  • The MMR vaccine may be administered earlier for children not receiving the varicella vaccine or if travelling to an area where measles activity is high.
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What is Congenital Rubella Syndrome?

  • Rubella may result in miscarriages or serious defects for the unborn child.
  • The unborn child is most at risk of developing Congenital Rubella Syndrome if a pregnant woman is infected with the virus in the first four months of pregnancy.
  • It is very rare for complications to result if the infection occurs after the 20th week of conception.
  • Congenital Rubella Syndrome Rubella Fact Sheet
    (PDF 41KB, 1 page)
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What if I am pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant?

  • If you are pregnant check your immunity status with your physician.
  • Most women of child bearing age have immunity to rubella.
  • Screening pregnant women for rubella immunity is part of the initial prenatal follow up.
  • If you are thinking of becoming pregnant check your immune status.
  • If you are not immune ask your doctor to vaccinate you.
  • Do not consider pregnancy until 3 months after vaccination.
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What if I think I've been in contact with Rubella?

  • Check your immunization record to see if you were immunized with Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) after your first birthday.
  • If you are not sure of your immune status contact your family physician.
  • If there is no record of vaccination, immunity can be checked with a simple blood test.
  • Watch for signs and symptoms of rubella infection that would occur within 14-23 days after your last contact with an infected individual.
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For more information

  • For more information please contact Peel Public Health at 905-799-7700, Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or Telehealth Ontario anytime at
    1-866-797-0000.
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Revised: June 12, 2014

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