All about Rubella: what it is, symptoms, treatment and vaccine


What is rubella?

Rubella or “ German measles ” is a contagious virus that causes fever and red rashes on the skin. Also called a rash, the spots usually appear on the face and behind the ear, before spreading throughout the body.

The disease usually occurs in childhood, between the ages of five and nine, but it can affect adults who have not been vaccinated or who have never had rubella. Virosis occurs only once in life and is usually benign, but if acquired during pregnancy, it can cause deformities in the fetus and even miscarriage.

Man is the sole host for this virus, which has become uncommon over the years. In Brazil, for example, the cases stopped occurring in 2009.

Rubella-like diseases are: measles , chickenpox, infectious erythema and roseola.

Rubella in pregnancy (Congenital Rubella Syndrome)

During pregnancy, rubella poses more risks, as it can affect the baby’s body, which is still developing. In addition, they increase the chances of miscarriage.

Women planning to become pregnant should check with their doctor, before pregnancy, if they are vaccinated.

The recommendation for pregnant women is that they do not take the vaccine, as it has the live attenuated virus, allowing the risk of fetal infection. However, many of those who were inadvertently vaccinated showed unexpected results, in which most babies were born healthy. Therefore, a pregnant woman who was inadvertently vaccinated does not need to terminate the pregnancy.

Rubella in Brazil

Our country is free of the disease. In 2015 Brazil received the Rubella Elimination Certificate, since there were no occurrences of transmission of the virus for 5 consecutive years.

Even so, mumps and measles have been affecting the population since 2016, which may be an indication of the return of rubella. The flow of tourists in Brazil can also bring the disease back, as well as the lack of immunization / vaccination.

Index – in this article you will find the following information:

  1. What is rubella?
  2. Rubella in pregnancy (Congenital Rubella Syndrome)
  3. Causes and transmission
  4. How does rubella affect the body?
  5. Risk factors
  6. Rubella symptoms
  7. When should I see a doctor?
  8. Diagnosis
  9. Does rubella have a cure? What is the treatment?
  10. Living together
  11. Complications
  12. Prevention: rubella vaccine

Causes and transmission

Rubella is caused by the Rubella virus , a virus of the Rubivirus genus . It is transmitted through the respiratory tract, through coughing , sneezing, cutlery, kissing and any contact with saliva or contaminated air.

The infected person can transmit the virus even before he knows he has it, as the symptoms take up to a week to appear.

In the case of congenital rubella, transmission is from the mother to the fetus and, after birth, the child may transmit the virus until he is 1 year old.

How does rubella affect the body?

Rubella is a disease that spreads easily, starting with the pharynx and lymphatic organs and spreading through the bloodstream, only then to appear in the form of red spots.

The incubation lasts from 12 to 23 days (approximately) and the contagion is usually stronger in the 7 days before and in the 7 days after the appearance of the spots.

The virus invades the body through the airways and, in about a week, has already contaminated the entire body. The skin rash appears 3 or 5 days after contagion , and lasts about 3 days on the skin. The disease is no longer contagious after a week of the appearance of the spots.

Risk factors

Not having the vaccine against the disease (especially in the case of pregnant women or women who intend to become pregnant) and being in contact with infected people or with her belongings are risk factors, which increase the chances of contracting the disease.

Rubella symptoms

The symptoms of rubella are usually similar to those of the flu and appear about 18 days after infection. Among them are:

  • Rash (red spots);
  • Fever up to 38º C;
  • Conjunctivitis ;
  • Cough;
  • Sneezing;
  • Nasal discharge;
  • Joint pain;
  • Muscle aches;
  • Headache ;
  • Dry skin;
  • Increased lymph nodes;
  • Difficulty or pain when swallowing;
  • General malaise;
  • Nodules on the nape and behind the ears;
  • Sore throat .

Symptoms of the disease take time to appear and sometimes do not appear at all. Even so, in cases where the symptoms appear, infected people improve in about 2 to 3 days. The spots usually disappear quickly, while the joint pain can last for some time, having a shorter duration in children.

When should I see a doctor?

Seek medical help whenever you have the symptoms mentioned above, or when you are exposed to the disease through infected people.

Also consult your doctor if you suspect you are pregnant, or plan to become pregnant, as rubella in its congenital form is very dangerous and can deform the fetus.

If you have not had a rubella vaccine, see a doctor. If you have had the vaccine for a long time, reinforce it by taking the second dose.


The diagnosis of rubella is usually made by the clinical picture. About 4 days after the appearance of the spots, antibodies against the disease are formed in the body.

Rubella is easily confused with other diseases, as it has very generic symptoms, such as head and throat pain , which makes its diagnosis difficult, which can only be obtained through serological examination. However, this laboratory confirmation is not always necessary (except in cases of pregnancy), as the disease is mild and disappears on its own in a short time.

In cases of requesting tests, the doctor will arrive at the diagnosis after analyzing the symptoms and performing the proper blood test to identify the lgG and lgM antibodies. If the person does not have these antibodies, it means that they are not yet vaccinated against the virus.

Antibodies & Antibodies.

There are two antibodies that interfere with rubella: IgM and IgG. IgM is the one that attacks the disease, while IgG is the one that indicates that the patient is already immunized against rubella.

Those who have rubella have positive IgM, and those who have had the disease or been vaccinated have IgG, the antibody that will make them never get the disease again.

Diagnosis in pregnant women

Pregnant women who received the vaccine or had rubella virus should consult a doctor urgently. Women who intend to become pregnant should also have laboratory tests.

To find out if the baby has been affected, prenatal care and all the necessary tests to check fetal tissues and organs should be performed. Morphological ultrasound can be performed between 18 and 22 weeks of gestation, to assess most of the malformations. Some of them, however, can only be seen when the baby is born.

It is recommended to perform the blood test monthly, from the first month, until the child turns 1 year old.

Does rubella have a cure? What is the treatment?

Rubella is curable. In general, the disease disappears quickly and has no specific treatment. The focus of the treatment is only to control the symptoms, ameliorating them.

Doctors usually recommend drinking fluids to reduce coughing and moisturize the body. For children, warm drinks with honey and lemon should be given (except for children under 1 year old).

Home treatment

Some plants and herbs can help in the treatment of the disease. Are they:

  • Acerola: It has vitamin C, which strengthens the body’s defenses.
  • Chamomile: Contains AAS, a substance with analgesic action, and can reduce pain and fever put 10g of chamomile with 500ml of water in a pan, boil for 5 minutes and let it rest for 10 minutes. Then strain and drink an average of 4 cups a day;
  • Cistus incanus: The tea of ​​this plant has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antiseptic properties to strengthen the immune system, fighting infection, add 3 teaspoons of dry leaves with 500ml of boiled water in a container. Let stand for 10 minutes, then strain and drink 3 times a day;
  • Witch hazel: Helps relieve itching, make an infusion and apply to the skin.

Living together

Adequate measures to cope with the disease are rest, the use of symptom-controlling drugs (many of them over-the-counter in pharmacies) and avoiding contact with people, preventing the transmission of the disease.

The patient must be isolated from other family members, as well as his belongings must be kept at a distance, avoiding the risk of contamination until the fever and rashes disappear.


As stated earlier, rubella does not usually cause serious complications. However, in rare cases, the virus can cause viral encephalitis , severe inflammation in the brain, or otitis media.

Complications of Congenital Rubella

Rubella in its congenital form, that is, when passed to the baby, can cause malformations in the fetus and, in certain cases, miscarriage. The first three months of pregnancy are the most risky.

Congenital rubella syndrome can cause one or more problems for the baby, including:

  • Cataract;
  • Intellectual difficulties;
  • Damage to the liver and spleen;
  • Glaucoma ;
  • Purple;
  • Blindness;
  • Hemolytic anemia ;
  • Microcephaly;
  • Rashes at birth;
  • Meningoencephalitis;
  • Hormonal problems;
  • Injuries to the nervous system;
  • Deafness;
  • Low weight at birth;
  • Heart problems;
  • Malfunction of organs;
  • Brain damage;
  • Malformations in general;
  • Growth problems;
  • Inflammation of the lungs.

The child may also have diabetes and autism up to 4 years of age.

Some of these symptoms can be treated, but Congenital Rubella Syndrome has no cure. Therefore, the correct thing is to prevent before pregnancy.

Prevention: rubella vaccine

The best way to prevent the disease is through the triple-viral vaccine, which protects against rubella, mumps and measles, with 95% effectiveness.

There is also tetra-viral, which also protects against chicken pox , and the viral duo, which protects only against measles and rubella.

The rubella vaccine is usually applied in two doses, the first in babies aged 12 to 15 months and the second in children aged 4 to 6 years.

In adults, vaccination is important to prevent women from contracting the disease during pregnancy. After vaccination, pregnancy should be avoided for up to 30 days. Pregnant women cannot be vaccinated.