Rubella is a rash illness caused by the rubella virus. It's generally a mild illness, but if acquired by women in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy can have devastating effects on the unborn child, leading to Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS). The virus can affect all foetal organs and lead to serious birth defects such as:

  • learning difficulties
  • cataracts
  • deafness
  • cardiac abnormalities
  • restriction of intrauterine growth
  • inflammatory lesions of the brain, liver, lungs and bone marrow 

For more information on the symptoms and treatment of rubella, visit NHS Inform.


For all infection prevention and control guidance visit the A-Z ​pathogens section of the National Infection and Prevention Control Manual.

Data and surveillance

Surveillance update for January to March 2021

Before the introduction of rubella vaccination, more than 80% of adults had evidence of previous exposure to rubella. A vaccination programme targeting girls and non-immune women of childbearing age was introduced in the UK in 1970 which reduced the number of CRS births and terminations. In 1988, the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine was introduced for both boys and girls and further decreased cases of rubella to near elimination levels (Figure 1).

No laboratory-confirmed cases of rubella have been reported to PHS in 2021 to date. The last reported case of laboratory-confirmed rubella in Scotland was in 2017.

Figure 1: Number of laboratory-confirmed cases of rubella in Scotland by year, 1988 to 2021 (to week 13)

Figure 1 shows the number of laboratory-confirmed cases of rubella in Scotland by year, 1988 to 2021 (to week 13). There have been no cases repoted in 2021 to date.

Congenital rubella surveillance

Congenital rubella surveillance can be viewed on the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) website.


Vaccination uptake

Vaccine uptake statistics are published by Public Health Scotland Data and Intelligence.