About Global Measles, Rubella, and Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS)
Updated November 23, 2022
Measles and rubella are vaccine-preventable diseases (VPD). Measles and rubella vaccines are safe and effective and have been in use since the 1960s. Two doses of a measles vaccine provides protection against measles. One dose of a rubella-containing vaccine provides life-long protection.
Measles and rubella (also known as “German measles”) are diseases that can lead to serious health complications, or even death. In unvaccinated pregnant women, rubella can lead to miscarriage or multiple birth defects that together are called congenital rubella syndrome (CRS).
Health problems caused by these diseases overlap. Each of them can cause brain damage, deafness, and blindness. Measles can cause pneumonia and diarrhea, while rubella and congenital rubella syndrome can lead to heart disorders.
[Above: Health problems possible from measles and rubella / congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) overlap.]
CDC’s U.S. Measles and Rubella websites have more information on the signs and symptoms:
In 1980, before widespread global use of measles vaccine, an estimated 2.6 million measles deaths occurred worldwide. While much progress has been made, including more than 56 million measles-related deaths prevented through vaccination from 2000 – 2021, measles still claimed the lives of almost 130,000 people (mostly children) in 2021.
In 2021, the estimated number of measles cases was 9.5 million. The health consequences of measles and rubella infection can be lifelong, including economic losses for individuals, families and societies.
The last major rubella pandemic in 1962-1965 included an estimated 12.5 million infections and negatively affected 33,350 pregnancies in the United States. The development of a rubella vaccine reduced infections by as much as 78% 3 years after introduction. Models estimate 105,000 annual congenital rubella syndrome cases occurred in 2010. As of 2020, all but 19 countries vaccinate children to protect them from rubella infection, and 10,194 cases of rubella were reported globally.
In 2020 and 2021, reported measles cases and deaths were lower than most previous years. Measures to mitigate COVID-19, such as social distancing and mask use, may have helped prevent spread of measles and rubella viruses. Surveillance for measles and rubella has also declined, which impacts the timely detection of cases and outbreaks. Disruptive measles outbreaks were still reported and cases may have been underreported.
Read the latest reports: