Rubella in the U.S.

Rubella infographic

Rubella is a contagious disease caused by a virus. It is also called “German measles”, but it is caused by a different virus than measles. Rubella was eliminated from the United States in 2004. Rubella elimination is defined as the absence of continuous disease transmission for 12 months or more in a specific geographic area. Rubella is no longer endemic (constantly present) in the United States. However, rubella remains a problem in other parts of the world. It can still be brought into the U.S. by people who get infected in other countries.

Before the rubella vaccination program started in 1969, rubella was a common and widespread infection in the United States. During the last major rubella epidemic in the United States from 1964 to 1965, an estimated 12.5 million people got rubella, 11,000 pregnant women lost their babies, 2,100 newborns died, and 20,000 babies were born with congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). Once the vaccine became widely used, the number of people infected with rubella in the United States dropped dramatically.

Today, less than 10 people in the United States are reported as having rubella each year. Since 2012, all rubella cases had evidence that they were infected when they were living or traveling outside the United States. To maintain rubella elimination, it is important that children and women of childbearing age are vaccinated against rubella. Learn more about rubella worldwide.