Parvovirus B19

Parvovirus B-19 infection is also known as Fifth Disease. Fifth Disease is usually a mild illness that resolves without medical treatment among children and adults who are otherwise healthy. However, pregnant women who are infected with Parvovirus during early pregnancy have a 5% risk of miscarriage. (Also see article Parvovirus B19 Exposure in Pregnancy.)

Transmission occurs by contact with respiratory secretions, transmission from mother to baby and via needle stick exposure to infected blood and from blood products. Since 2002 blood banks have been screening for this virus, to decrease transmission from blood products. Outbreaks are usually seasonal and more frequent during late winter and early spring. Infection can be an occupational risk for school and child care personnel. Transmission to household member occurs 50% of the time.

During outbreaks of Fifth Disease, about 20% of adults and children are infected without getting any symptoms at all. About half of the adult population has had Parvovirus B-19 and are immune from getting the disease again.

A child with Fifth Disease typically has a "slapped-cheek" rash on the face and a lacy red rash on the trunk and limbs, with possible itching. The child is usually not very ill and the rash resolves in 7 to 10 days. They are infectious to others until the rash breaks out. Once a child recovers from a Parvovirus infection, they develop lasting immunity and are protected against future infection.

An adult who has not previously been infected with Parvovirus B19 can be infected and become ill, develop a rash, joint pain and/or swelling. The joint symptoms usually resolve in a week or two, but can last several months.

Using good hand washing and standard precautions is your best prevention strategy in any occupational setting as well as at home.

Keywords: Parvovirus, fifth disease