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Rubella (also known as German measles) is serious if a pregnant woman catches it, especially during the first three months of her pregnancy. A mother can pass rubella onto her unborn baby and this infection can cause birth defects.

Rubella is usually a mild viral illness. However, if a pregnant woman catches it – particularly in the first three months of her pregnancy – it can lead to birth defects in her unborn baby. This may include deafness, cataracts, heart problems, intellectual disability, behavioural problems, and in some cases, miscarriage can occur.

Rubella is spread through the air by breathing, coughing, and sneezing. Symptoms of rubella include a rash, fever, and swollen glands. However, half of all people who get rubella do not have any symptoms.

Your family/whānau’s best protection against rubella is to be immunised. Protection from rubella is part of the free measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccinations given to children at 15 months (currently 12 months for children in the Auckland region) and four years of age. There is no rubella-only vaccine available in NZ. If you think you or your child may not have had these vaccinations, see your doctor.

All women of child-bearing age can be screened at no cost to see whether they’re immune to rubella. If you’re not immune, you’re eligible for the free MMR vaccine. Checking for rubella immunity should be done before a woman gets pregnant as MMR vaccination is not recommended in pregnancy. Men should ensure that they have had their two free MMR vaccinations. This prevents them from catching the disease, and protects pregnant women and those unable to be vaccinated.

If you are concerned about rubella call Healthline on 0800 611 116 or contact your doctor or practice nurse.

The information on this page focusses on disease prevention and protection only. Please use the ‘Resources’ and ‘Related Websites’ links below for more information.

Rubella is spread through the air by swallowing or breathing in the cough or sneeze droplets from someone who has the disease. People with rubella are infectious from a week before the rash appears until a week after.

If you’ve caught rubella, it takes 2-3 weeks before you get sick.

If a child has rubella, the symptoms are:

  • a rash starts behind the ears and spreads to the face, neck, and body
  • fever
  • swollen glands.

In teenagers and adults, there are usually 1-5 days of feeling unwell, fever, runny nose, and cough. This is followed by symptoms of:

a rash starts behind the ears and spreads to the face, neck, and body

  • fever
  • swollen glands
  • joint pain.

There are no specific treatments for rubella and symptoms usually go away after a few days. There are things you can do to help you feel better, such as:

  • using paracetamol to reduce pain and discomfort
  • making sure you drink enough water or other fluids so you don’t get dehydrated.

If you have rubella you should stay away from school, early childhood services and work for seven days from the appearance of the rash to prevent the spread of rubella in your community. You should also avoid having visitors to your home. Avoid contact with anyone who is pregnant.

Let people you have been with know that you or your child has rubella so they can check their own immunity. Auckland Regional Public Health Service will also provide advice to your contacts.

Rubella is a notifiable disease. This means that health professionals or laboratories will inform us when someone has rubella. This allows us to monitor the number of people who have the disease and give health professionals advice on how to reduce the spread of rubella. Auckland Regional Public Health Service will also speak to the person with rubella about who they have been in close contact with. We will provide these people with advice on how to protect themselves and avoid spreading it further.

HEALTH PROFESSIONALS

There are specific requirements for notifiable diseases in the Auckland region.

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Last updated 11.8.2020

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