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The Difference Between Rubella and Rubeola

By HERWriter
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What are the differences between rubeola and rubella? PS Productions/Photospin

Rubella and rubeola share similar names. Both are caused by a virus. Both cause a skin rash. And both are considered to be a type of measles.


Though both of these illnesses have similarities they each have different characteristics that can make them each serious diseases. Read on to find out how they differ.

Rubella is also called German measles, while rubeola is regular measles. The biggest difference between the two is that rubella is considered to be a milder disease that only lasts around three days. Rubeola can become a serious illness that lasts several days and can cause other serious permanent complications.

Rubella can be a serious disease for a pregnant woman if she is exposed to someone who has rubella in the first 20 weeks of her pregnancy according to MedlinePlus.

If a pregnant woman is exposed to rubella, it can cause birth defects in the unborn fetus and even miscarriage. The person with rubella may not even have significant symptoms, making it harder for them to know if they are ill.

This is why it is extremely important that a woman of child-bearing age is immunized against rubella. It must however be done at least one month prior to becoming pregnant.

The rash of rubella (German measles) is pink or light red, spotted, and lasts up to three days. Other symptoms may include one to two days of a mild fever, swollen lymph nodes and joint swelling.

People are contagious to others one week before and one week after a breakout. Children recover in about one week but in adults, it may take more time. (1)

The rash of rubeola (regular measles) is a full-body red or reddish-brown rash. However the first symptom is usually a hacking cough, runny nose and high fever.

Additionally, a common marker found in measles are Koplik spots, which appear in the mouth as small red spots with blue white centers. Measles are highly contagious. (4) People with measles are contagious for four days before symptoms occur, and four days after the rash erupts.

Complications of measles can be serious. According to the CDC, 6 to 20 percent will develop an ear infection, diarrhea or possibly pneumonia. One out of every 1,000 will develop inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), and 1 out of 1,000 will die. (5)


There is no treatment for either rubella or rubeola, which is why immunization is needed to prevent the spread of either disease. The MMR vaccination stands for Measles (rubeola), Mumps and Rubella and is usually given to children at 12 to 15 months and again at 4 to 6 years of age.

Before vaccinations became prevalent in the United States, it was estimated that 3 to 4 million people were infected yearly with measles. Of these, 400 to 500 died while another 1,000 developed measles encephalitis.

It is important to note that measles is still common in other countries and visitors who have measles can carry it when visiting here in the United States. (5)


1. About Rubella. Kids Health from Nemours. Retrieved Aug. 25, 2012.

2. Rubella. Also called: German measles, Three-day measles. MedlinePlus. Retrieved Aug. 25, 2012.

3. Measles. Also called: Rubeola. MedlinePlus. Retrieved Aug. 25, 2012.

4. About Measles. Kids Health from Nemours. Retrieved Aug. 25, 2012.

5. Measles - Q&A about Disease & Vaccine. CDC: Center for Disease Control. Retrieved Aug. 25, 2012.

Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles/

Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment3 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

In regards to measles, according to the CDC: "One out of every 1,000 will develop inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), and 1 out of 1,000 will die." You also state that "Before vaccinations became prevalent in the United States, it was estimated that 3 to 4 million people were infected yearly with measles. Of these, 400 to 500 died while another 1,000 developed measles encephalitis."
Let's do some basic math: If 4 million people get the measles and 400 die, then one out of every 10,000 people who get measles will die (not 1 in 1,000). Similarly, 1 in 4,000 will develop encephalitis (not 1 in 1,000). To learn more about other CDC lies and half-truths visit: www.DarkSideVaccines.com

September 23, 2018 - 7:42pm
EmpowHER Guest

thank you, it was very helpful .

December 23, 2014 - 8:03am
EmpowHER Guest

This is a very usefull website(:

April 10, 2013 - 5:55am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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