Rubella is a rash illness caused by the rubella virus. It's generally a mild illness, but if acquired by women in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy can have devastating effects on the unborn child, leading to Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS). The virus can affect all foetal organs and lead to serious birth defects such as:
- learning difficulties
- cardiac abnormalities
- restriction of intrauterine growth
- inflammatory lesions of the brain, liver, lungs and bone marrow
For more information on the symptoms and treatment of rubella, visit NHS inform.
For all infection prevention and control guidance visit the A-Z pathogens section of the National Infection and Prevention Control Manual.
Data and surveillance
Surveillance update for 2018
Before the introduction of rubella vaccination, more than 80% of adults had evidence of previous exposure to rubella. A vaccination programme targeting girls and non-immune women of childbearing age was introduced in the UK in 1970 which reduced the number of CRS births and terminations. In 1988, the Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine was introduced for both boys and girls and further decreased cases of rubella to near elimination levels (Figure 1).
No laboratory confirmed rubella cases were reported to us in 2018.
Congenital rubella surveillance
Congenital rubella surveillance can be viewed on the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) website.
Vaccine uptake statistics on the MMR vaccine can be found on the Information Services Division (ISD) website.