Rubella is caused by rubella virus that is transmitted by particles in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can also be transmitted on contaminated objects, where the virus can survive for a short period of time on tissues, doorknobs, phones, and so on. It infects only humans.

Before the development of the vaccine, rubella was common in spring and winter and peaked every six to nine years. There were huge rubella epidemics in the United States in 1935, 1943, and 1964.

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