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Congenital rubella syndrome: Clinical features and diagnosis

Simon R Dobson, MD, FRCP(C)
Section Editors
Morven S Edwards, MD
Leonard E Weisman, MD
Deputy Editor
Carrie Armsby, MD, MPH


The clinical features and diagnosis of congenital rubella infection will be reviewed here. The epidemiology of rubella infection, risk of rubella-associated congenital defects, and management of congenital rubella infection are discussed separately. (See "Rubella" and "Rubella in pregnancy" and "Congenital rubella syndrome: Management, outcome, and prevention".)


Congenital rubella infection – Congenital rubella infection (CRI) encompasses all outcomes associated with intrauterine rubella infection (eg, miscarriage, stillbirth, combinations of birth defects, asymptomatic infection) [1].

Congenital rubella syndrome – Congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) refers to variable constellations of birth defects (eg, hearing impairment, congenital heart defects, cataracts/congenital glaucoma, pigmentary retinopathy, etc) (table 1) [1].


The epidemiology of rubella infection is discussed separately. (See "Rubella in pregnancy", section on 'Epidemiology' and "Rubella", section on 'Epidemiology and vaccine development'.)

CRS is rare in developed countries with established rubella immunization programs [2-4]. It is no longer endemic in the United States, although a few cases are reported to the National Congenital Rubella Syndrome Registry each year (figure 1A-B) [2,5,6]. These cases typically occur in infants whose mothers emigrated from countries without rubella immunization programs. Following a 15-year initiative involving widespread immunization, rubella was declared in 2015 to have been eliminated from the whole of the Americas region [7].

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Literature review current through: Sep 2017. | This topic last updated: Apr 18, 2016.
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