Similarities between Zika and Rubella

Similarities between Zika and Rubella


Both Zika and Rubella are a fever-rash illnesses whose symptoms include joint pain/inflammation, conjunctivitis, or swollen lymph nodes. Symptoms are usually mild and individuals often show no symptoms at all.


Both viruses can be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy and/or for a few weeks after giving birth. These viruses cross the placenta during pregnancy, and the infant may be born with birth defects — either Congenital Zika Syndrome or Congenital Rubella Syndrome.


Zika is spread through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus mosquito in areas with active virus transmission. Zika is sexually transmitted from both males and females, and can also be spread through blood transfusions.


Rubella is spread by person-to-person contact through saliva, such as when an infected person coughs or sneezes. An infected individual is contagious up to a week before and a week after the rash appears. Infants with Congenital Rubella Syndrome may be infectious for up to a year.


There is no cure for Zika or Rubella



A pilot vaccine is proposed to enter early-stage human trials in the fall of 2016, but a fully licensed Zika vaccine may not be available for several yearsexternal icon. To avoid being bitten:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Stay in places with air conditioning and window/door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.

If a partner who has traveled to an area with Zika:

  • Shows symptoms – Use condoms or abstain from sex for at least 6 months.
  • Does not show symptoms – Use condoms or abstain from sex for at least 8 weeks.


The Rubella vaccine is approximately 95% effective in preventing infection.

  • Be sure to vaccinate children on schedule, as well as all unvaccinated individuals of any age.
  • The MMR vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella is safe and effective and has been used in the United States for more than 45 years.
  • Health insurance covers the cost of vaccines for children; most cover the cost for adults.


Treatment for Zika or Rubella involves treating the symptoms:

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink fluids to prevent dehydration
  • Take medicine such as acetaminophen/paracetamol to reduce fever and pain

For Rubella: immune globulin is not recommended except for exposed pregnant women who elect not to terminate the pregnancy.



Most people in areas with active Zika transmission are at risk of getting infected. They are not immune since they have never been infected with the virus and there is no vaccine.


Most individuals in the United States and other countries with high rubella vaccine usage are immune. Those who are not vaccinated are at risk.

Special Considerations

  • Pregnant women and sexually active individuals due to risk of birth defects
  • Health care workers due to higher risk of contact with infectious individuals.

Number Affected


The number of pregnant women infected with Zika in the United States has risen to 400 cases as of July 26, 2016. For current statistics, see here.


Globally, 300 infants are born each day with birth defects from Rubella; it is the most common type of congenital infection due to a vaccine preventable disease.

Birth Defects


Zika virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus during pregnancy or at delivery. The fetus can then develop severe brain defects, such as microcephaly.


There is up to 90% chance that a pregnant woman infected with Rubella during the first 11 weeks will have an infant born with Congenital Rubella Syndrome. For both Zika and Rubella: A baby born with microcephaly or a congenital syndrome may have multiple birth defects and/or chronic disability—if it survives at all.

Long-term effects

The long-term effects of congenital birth defects resulting from Zika or Rubella may be permanent and include:

  • Severe developmental disabilities
  • Intellectual disability
  • Hearing impairment
  • Cataracts and glaucoma
  • Seizures
  • Behavior disorders


The virus can be diagnosed by testing urine, blood, and spinal fluid. In addition, Zika virus has been found in semen, cervical mucus, and vaginal fluids.

Page last reviewed: August 5, 2016
Content source: Global Immunization