Causes of rubella

Explore the cause of rubella and how it is spread.

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What causes rubella?

Rubella is a highly contagious disease caused by the rubella virus. 

How is rubella spread?

The rubella virus can be spread in different ways, including:

  • direct contact, such as kissing an infected person
  • through the air, such as when an infected person:
  • coughs
  • sneezes
  • talks

Symptoms appear between 14 and 21 days after a person has been infected. However, people can pass on the infection to others about 1 week before they develop a rash. This is before they even know that they are sick.

If you have rubella, you will be highly contagious for the first 4 days after the rash appears. During this period, you should stay home from work or school. Young children should not go to daycare if they are showing symptoms of rubella.

A pregnant woman infected with rubella has a 90% chance of transmitting the disease to her unborn baby. However, it is rare for a woman who has been immunized to become infected with rubella.

If the baby becomes infected, he or she can be born with congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). CRS can cause lifelong damage to the baby’s health. The baby can also spread the infection through:

  • urine
  • a runny nose
  • sneezing
  • coughing

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