Difference Between Measles and Rubella

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What is Measles?

Measles is a highly infectious disease caused by an RNA virus, known as a paramyxovirus. The virus can remain alive in the air for a maximum of two hours.

Disease incubation is from 1 to 2 weeks but symptoms can last up to 10 days.

During the early symptoms (prodromal stage) of the disease it is most contagious and the person remains infectious for quite some time. Approximately 90 percent of exposed people get sick with the measles.

People become infected when they come into contact with droplets created by sick people who cough or sneeze.

Symptoms Include:

  • Fever, Cough, runny nose.

  • Conjunctivitis, an infection of the outer membrane of the eye; eyes are typically red and watering.

  • Photophobia (eyes are sensitive to the light).

  • Enanthem present (Rash found on mucus – producing membranes).

  • Koplik spots (small rash found on the epithelial membrane  which lines the inside of the mouth).


Measles can cause serious illness in some people which leads to brain swelling and even blindness. Measles can even cause death from infections such as pneumonia, and less commonly, encephalitis.


If people are immunized Measles can be prevented. The vaccine against measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) provides protection against the infection. The prevalence of measles in the population has declined with widespread vaccination.

What is Rubella?

Rubella is a virus that also has RNA as its nucleic acid. It can be transmitted by respiratory secretions, from coughing or sneezing individuals, similar to the measles.

People who are infected are infectious for up to a week before showing symptoms and for about two weeks after developing symptoms.

It is also called German measles and is not as infectious as measles. The disease can take about 2 to 3 weeks to incubate.

Symptoms May Include:

Mild fever (less than 38.3o Celsius), general fatigue, conjunctivitis, and swollen lymph nodes. In some patients even, sore joints can occur.

Painful swollen lymph nodes are normal in the neck and the back of the throat turns reddish in color.

There are no early symptoms (a prodromal stage), in rubella. Rubella has some similar symptoms to measles because rash and fever occur.

Rubella is very dangerous for pregnant women and can cause newborn problems such as deafness, microcephalus and even stillbirths. It can even cause cataracts and neonatal heart defects if the mother is exposed during pregnancy.


MMR vaccine is the best defense against rubella. Rubella incidence decreased as vaccination programs started.

What is the Difference Between Measles and Rubella?

  • Measles is much more infectious and dangerous a disease than rubella.

  • In measles there is a prodromal stage whereas Rubella does not have a prodromal stage.

  • Incubation in measles takes 1 to 2 weeks, in rubella it takes 2 to 3 weeks to complete.

  • The measles symptoms can last up to 10 days, while rubella symptoms usually last up to 5 days.

  • Swollen lymph nodes are always present with rubella but not always with measles.

  • Koplik spots are a measles symptom while Forschheimer spots are a rubella symptom.

  • Photophobia is common in measles, but is not present in rubella.

  • The temperature in measles can be as high as 40oC; the rubella fever appears to be less than 38.3o.

  • The measles rash consists of blotches that last a while and the rubella rash consist of spots that fade rapidly.

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Rubella Vs Rubeola (Measles)



Highly contagious.

Not highly contagious.

Prodromal stage is present.

Prodromal stage is absent.

Incubation of 1 – 2 weeks.

Incubation of 2 – 3 weeks.

Symptoms can last up to ten days.

Symptoms last about 5 days.

Lymph nodes don't swell always.

Lymph nodes always swell.

Koplik spots are seen.

Forschheimer spots are seen.

Photophobia present.

Forschheimer spots are seen.

High fever.

Low fever.

A rash is blotched with spots.

A rash is spotted which fade fast.


  • Measles which rubella are both caused by an RNA virus which transmitted through the respiratory droplets that sick people produce. 

  • Measles is more severe than rubella, and highly contagious. 

  • Though both measles and rubella have similar symptoms such as rash, the fever between the two is slightly different. 

  • Rash, and symptoms of measles last longer than rubella. 

  • Though measles does, Rubella has no prodromal period. 

  • Rubella causes fever to small and does not last long. As in the case of measles, the pupils are also not sensitive to light.

  • Measles and rubella in a pregnant woman can both cause problems for the fetus.

A person with the MMR (mumps measles rubella)  vaccine may be vaccinated against both of these diseases.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1: What are the Causes of Measles and Rubella?

A: Measles and rubella caused by

  • Rubella is a virus which also contains RNA as its nucleic acid.

  • Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by the Rubeola virus.

Q2: Are Measles and Rubella the Same Thing?

A: Rubella is not the same as measles, but the two diseases have some symptoms in common, including red rash. Rubella is caused by a virus that is distinct from measles and rubella is not as infectious or as serious as measles. The vaccine against rubella prevention is highly effective.

Q3: What is Measles Rubella Vaccine?

A: All children are advised to get the MMR vaccine. It protects from three diseases that are are potentially serious.