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.

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.

There is currently an outbreak of rubella in Japan. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is advising that pregnant women should not travel to Japan during this outbreak unless protected by either vaccination or previous rubella infection.

Rubella is spread through the air by breathing, coughing and sneezing. Symptoms of rubella include a rash, fever and swollen glands. Half of all people who get rubella may 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 12 months 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. Men should ensure that they have had their two free MMR vaccinations. This prevents them 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 see your doctor or practice nurse.

Rubella is spread through the air by swallowing or breathing in the cough or sneeze droplets from someone who has the disease.

If you’ve caught rubella, it takes 14–23 days before you get sick. You’ll be infectious from seven days before the rash appears until seven days after.

If a child has rubella, the symptoms are:

  • a rash on the face, scalp and body
  • fever
  • swollen glands.

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

  • a rash on the face, scalp 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. This will help prevent the spread of rubella in your community. You should also avoid having visitors to your home.

Let people you have been with know that you or your child has rubella so they can check their own immunity. Avoid contact with anyone who is pregnant. 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. Our team will also speak to the person who has rubella about who they have been in close contact with so we can provide those people with advice to help protect themselves and avoid spreading it further. 


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

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Last updated 8.10.2019

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