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Rubella in Adult
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed

Rubella in Adult

Contributors: Rajini Murthy MD, Susan Burgin MD
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed


Rubella (German measles) is caused by the rubella virus, which is an RNA virus in the Togaviridae family. Transmission is through the respiratory route. Its incubation period is 14-21 days. A prodrome of irritability, malaise, mild conjunctivitis, headache, fever, adenopathy, and minimal respiratory symptoms may appear 1-7 days prior to the cutaneous eruption. An exanthematous eruption starts on the face, spreads caudally, becomes generalized in 24 hours, and then typically disappears within 3 days. The palms and soles are typically, but not always, spared. This rash may be absent in as many as 25% of cases.

Infection in the United States is rare, owing to widespread vaccination. There is a higher incidence in confined populations such as military bases and schools. The disease is more common in the spring and summer. Arthralgias and mild arthritis, splenomegaly, thrombocytopenia, and testicular pain are sometimes seen. Encephalitis occurs in 1 out of 6000 cases. Pain on lateral or upward eye movement is common in this disorder. Thrombocytopenic purpura is also a rare complication.

Even in the immunocompromised host, rubella is usually a benign illness. The major impact of rubella is on the fetus of a pregnant patient and is one of the TORCH (toxoplasmosis, other [syphilis, varicella zoster, parvovirus B19], rubella, cytomegalovirus, and herpes simplex) diseases. These disorders can cause fetal heart and eye malformations, cataracts, deafness, intellectual disability, thrombocytopenic purpura, hepatosplenomegaly, intrauterine growth retardation, interstitial pneumonia, myocarditis, myocardial necrosis, and metaphyseal bone lesions.


B06.9 – Rubella without complication

36653000 – Rubella

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Last Reviewed:03/19/2023
Last Updated:04/03/2023
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Patient Information for Rubella in Adult
Contributors: Medical staff writer
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Rubella in Adult
A medical illustration showing key findings of Rubella (Prodome)
Clinical image of Rubella - imageId=915460. Click to open in gallery.  caption: 'A close-up of pink macules, papules, and patches on the thigh.'
A close-up of pink macules, papules, and patches on the thigh.
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