Risks of rubella

Find out what the risks of rubella are and who is most at risk.

On this page:

What are the risks of getting rubella?

Rubella was once a common childhood disease. Thanks to routine immunization, the risk of getting rubella in Canada is very low. But since rubella is common in other parts of the world, it is still possible for cases to occur in Canada.

Immunization is the best way to protect you and your children. The rubella vaccine is given in 2 doses, usually in childhood. The vaccine can protect you for life.

Who is most at risk of getting rubella?

If you or your children have not been vaccinated and have never had rubella, you are at risk of infection. Rubella is very contagious. It is easy to catch if you are in contact with someone who is infected with the virus.

Travellers who are not vaccinated may bring rubella into Canada. As a result, outbreaks may occur, especially in communities where people do not vaccinate their children. If there is a rubella outbreak in your community, you are at risk of getting rubella if you have:

  • not been fully immunized
  • never had rubella

Is there a risk of complications from rubella?

While not usually serious, sometimes a rubella infection can cause complications. These are rare. Complications may include:

  • internal bleeding (thrombocytopenia)
  • inflammation of the brain (encephalitis)
  • viral infection of the brain leading to neurological problems (progressive rubella panencephalitis)

A pregnant woman and her unborn baby are most at risk of serious complications if they become infected with rubella. A pregnant woman who is infected can pass the disease on to her unborn child.

Infection affects all organs of the fetus and can cause congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). This is a serious disease that can lead to:

  • major birth defects
  • miscarriage
  • stillbirth

Babies with CRS can suffer from:

  • deafness
  • eye, heart and brain defects
  • other lifelong mental and physical disabilities
Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: