About Global Measles, Rubella, and Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS)

Updated March 22, 2022

Measles and rubella can be prevented.

Measles and rubella are what’s known as “vaccine-preventable diseases” (VPD). This means that if vaccine is delivered on schedule and as recommended, it can keep people from catching and giving these diseases to others. Measles and rubella vaccines are safe and proven effective in helping the body build protection against these viruses to prevent disease.

Measles and rubella can cause serious illness, birth defects, and death.

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.

Measles can cause diarrhea and pneumonia. Rubella can cause heart disorders. Both can lead to brain damage, deafness, and blindness.

[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:


Measles and rubella are leading causes of death, disease, and economic burden globally.

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 31.7 million measles-related deaths prevented through vaccination from 2000 – 2020, measles still claimed the lives of 207,500 people (mostly children) in 2019.

In 2019, the estimated number of measles cases was over 9 million people. The health consequences of measles and rubella infection can be lifelong, including economic losses for individuals, families and societies.

In 2020, reported measles cases and deaths were lower than previous years. Measures to mitigate COVID-19, such as social distancing and mask use, may have helped prevent measles transmission. Surveillance for measles also declined, and the number of specimens submitted for testing was the lowest in a decade. Disruptive outbreaks were still reported in 26 countries and cases may have also been underreported. Read the latest report on progress toward measles elimination – worldwide, 2000-2020.

Page last reviewed: November 5, 2021
Content source: Global Immunization