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

Updated November 16, 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, and control measles and rubella outbreaks around the world. The impacts of this important work help protect people who are at risk from disease (e.g., infants, elderly, and immunocompromised persons), strengthen health security and keep Americans safe where they live, work and play.

← Data and Statistics

Measles and Rubella can cause death.

  • An estimated 136,000 people (mostly children) died of measles in 2022.
  • Children under the age of 5 are most at risk for severe complications from measles, including death.
  • Children in low-income countries have the highest risk of death from measles.
  • 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).
  • 33% of infants born with congenital rubella syndrome die before their first birthday.

Measles and Rubella can cause serious health problems.


  • Diarrhea
  • Pneumonia
  • Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)
  • Blindness
  • Deafness
  • Premature birth or low-birthweight baby (in unvaccinated pregnant women who get measles during pregnancy)
  • Reduced immunity to other deadly diseases
  • Death


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 one of the most infectious—yet vaccine-preventable—diseases.
  • 9 out of 10 susceptible people (are unvaccinated or have never had measles) who are exposed to measles will get sick.
  • In 2022, there were 37 countries with large and disruptive measles outbreaks.
  • In 2022, 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 57 million lives worldwide between 2000-2022.
  • 2 recommended doses of measles and rubella vaccine cost less than $2 per child.