Fast Facts on Global Measles, Rubella, and Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS)

Updated February 24, 2023

Keeping Infectious Diseases From Crossing Borders

CDC Quarantine Station Public Health Officer Diana Wu assesses a sick traveler who arrived to the U.S. from another country.

An infectious disease can spread from a remote village to any major city in the world in as little as 36 hours. CDC helps countries detect, respond to, and lessen the harm of measles and rubella outbreaks around the world. This work helps protect people who are at risk from disease, strengthens health security and keeps Americans safe where they live, work, and play.

← Data and Statistics

Measles and Rubella can cause death.

  • Measles kills approximately 350 people a day, mostly children.
  • An estimated 128,000 people (mostly children) died of measles in 2021.
  • Measles infections can cause subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE).
    • Fatal disease of the central nervous system
    • Results from a measles virus infection acquired earlier in life
    • More likely to happen if the person got measles when they were under the age of 2
    • Can develop 7 to 10 years after a person has measles, even though the person seems to have fully recovered from the initial acute infection
    • May occur in 1 per every 5,000-10,000 measles cases
  • 33% of infants affected with congenital rubella syndrome die before one year of age.
  • Rubella infection during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage (loss of the fetus within 20 weeks of conception) and stillbirth (death of the fetus after 20 weeks of pregnancy).

Measles and Rubella cause serious health problems.


  • Pneumonia
  • Brain Damage
  • Blindness
  • Deafness
  • Diarrhea
  • Premature birth or low-birthweight baby (in unvaccinated pregnant women who get measles during pregnancy)
  • Measles infection leads to loss of immunity to other deadly diseases.


Rubella infection creates mild symptoms in most children and adults, but can cause serious health problems when it happens during pregnancy:

  • Rubella virus infection is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable birth defects
  • A pregnant woman infected with rubella in early pregnancy has up to a 90% chance of giving birth to a baby with congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). Birth defects of CRS include:
    • Heart defects
    • Hearing loss
    • Glaucoma
    • Cataracts
    • Developmental delay

Measles is highly contagious.

  • 1 person with measles can infect 12-18 people, making it the most infectious—yet vaccine-preventable—disease.
  • 9 out of 10 susceptible people (unvaccinated/have never had measles) who are exposed to measles will get sick.
  • In 2021, measles infected an estimated 9 million people worldwide.

Measles and rubella are preventable diseases.

  • Safe and effective vaccines to prevent measles and rubella have been available for over 50 years.
  • Measles vaccines saved more than 56 million lives worldwide between 2000-2021.
  • 2 recommended doses of measles and rubella vaccine cost less than $2 per child.