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Rubella is caused by type of virus called Rubivirus. A rubella vaccine is part of the standard immunization schedule of all preschoolers. In Canada, the vaccine is only available as a combined vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella. Adequate immunization is probably the best available protection against this illness.


Onset of symptoms occurs 14 to 21 days following contact with the virus.


Rubella is sometimes mild and goes unnoticed. It starts with relatively mild generalized symptoms:

  • headaches;
  • swollen neck nodes.

These symptoms appear 1 or 2 days before a reddish rash with papules appears on the face and trunk. This rash never lasts more than 3 days. There is only mild or no fever. Moreover, rubella can be very harmful to an unborn fetus when the pregnant woman contracts the illness, especially at the beginning of the pregnancy.


The illness is spread by infected nose and throat secretions, urine or stools. The contagious period starts 7 days before the rash appears and lasts up to 14 days.

Vaccinated and unvaccinated pregnant women and those trying to become pregnant should avoid all contact with a person with rubella.


Children born to mothers who contracted the illness during pregnancy may be contagious until they are 1 or 2 years old. The virus is shed in the urine and respiratory secretions.

Remember: Washing your hands frequently significantly reduces the risk of transmitting most contagious diseases.

For more information:

Canadian Paediatric Society

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