Different viruses cause rubella and rubeola. Rubella is more commonly known as German measles, and people typically refer to rubeola as measles. They can be difficult to tell apart because they have similar symptoms.

Rubella tends to be mild, but it can be dangerous for pregnant people, as the virus may affect a developing fetus or increase the risk of miscarriage. Rubeola is also often mild but can cause serious complications in young children, as it increases their risk of developing pneumonia and encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain.

There is no specific treatment for rubella and rubeola. Instead, doctors aim to manage symptoms.

People can significantly lower the risk of rubella and rubeola infection by getting the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Read on to learn more about rubella and rubeola.

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Rubella and rubeola are infectious diseases resulting from different viruses.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rubella is no longer constantly present in the United States. However, if a person travels to a country with endemic rubella, they are at risk of developing a serious infection if they have not had the MMR vaccine.

The CDC state that the U.S. eliminated rubeola in 2000, but each year unvaccinated travelers from the U.S. acquire it in other countries and bring it back. In recent years, measles outbreaks have been increasing in the U.S. and other parts of the world due to lower MMR vaccination rates.

People should note that they can still contract rubella and rubeola in the U.S.

Symptoms of rubella and rubeola are similar. However, there are some key differences.


Rubella symptoms tend to be mild. Some of the most common symptoms are:

Up to 7 in 10 adult females develop arthritis when they have rubella, but this does not tend to happen in adult males and children.


When a person has contracted rubeola, symptoms tend to appear 7 to 14 days after coming into contact with the virus. Typical symptoms include:

Most people who contract rubella or rubeola make a swift recovery, but there can be complications.


If a pregnant person contracts the virus, the developing fetus they are carrying can acquire rubella. This may cause a miscarriage or lead to congenital rubella syndrome (CRS), which can lead to:


Sometimes, people develop complications after contracting rubeola, including:

If pregnant people contract measles, it can be life threatening. If children are younger than 2 years old, they may develop seizures, which can have a lasting effect on their cognitive development and coordination.

Doctors diagnose rubella and rubeola using a range of tests.


A doctor cannot diagnose rubella from a rash alone and would need to use laboratory tests, such as a rubella virus RNA detection test. RNA is a molecule that contains genetic material.

If a doctor suspects a newborn has contracted rubella in the womb or shortly after birth, they may also order an immunoglobulin M (IgM) or immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody test.

Doctors typically take several samples, which may include:

  • nasopharyngeal swabs
  • throat swabs
  • urine samples
  • blood and serum samples


To confirm a diagnosis of rubeola, a doctor may take several samples, similar to those for a rubella diagnosis. When someone has rubeola, the samples will contain rubeola viral RNA.

A healthcare professional may also order a blood count to screen for a decreased platelet and white blood cell count. Additionally, if a person has diarrhea, a doctor may check their electrolyte levels due to a risk of dehydration.

There is no antiviral treatment for rubella and rubeola, and the doctor’s aim is to manage symptoms.

Doctors may prescribe drugs for fever, such as acetaminophen. Infants born with rubella require individual treatment, depending on how the virus has affected them. For example, their cognitive development, hearing, and sight may need frequent monitoring.

Healthcare professionals may recommend similar approaches for treating symptoms and complications of rubeola.

Doctors will closely monitor pregnant people with either condition.

Health organizations recommend healthcare professionals administer MMR vaccinations to prevent rubella and rubeola.

According to the CDC, children should receive their first dose of the MMR vaccine between the ages of 12 and 15 months, and the second dose at 4 to 5 years.

In some cases, such as if an infant is traveling out of the country, a healthcare professional may administer the MMR vaccine at an earlier age. A person should discuss their child’s travel vaccinations with a pediatrician.

People can also receive the MMR vaccine in adulthood or adolescence if they did not receive it as a child.

The MMR vaccine and misinformation

People should note that the MMR vaccine does not cause autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Despite the fact that many subsequent studies have debunked the discredited and withdrawn 1998 article that linked the MMR vaccine to ASD, vaccination rates have declined in the U.S. and United Kingdom.

Anyone who feels hesitant about themselves or a child in their care receiving the MMR vaccine should speak with a healthcare professional who can answer any questions they have.

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Viruses cause both rubella and rubeola.

Symptoms of rubella and rubeola are similar, including rashes and fever. There is no antiviral treatment for rubella and rubeola, so doctors can only manage symptoms.

Rubeola can cause serious complications in young children and pregnant people. Similarly, rubella can cause miscarriage and developmental problems in fetuses. Therefore, the CDC recommend that people receive the MMR vaccine to prevent rubella and rubeola.

A person should seek medical attention if they think they are experiencing symptoms of either condition. Additionally, they should speak with a doctor for further information if they are hesitant about themselves or a child in their care receiving the MMR vaccine.