Typically, there is no serious complication for a pregnant woman or her baby from exposure to a person with Parvovirus B19, or "Fifth" disease. About 50% of women are already immune to Parvovirus B19, so these women and their babies are protected from infection and illness. Even if a woman is susceptible and gets infected with Parvovirus B19, she usually experiences only a mild illness. Likewise, her unborn baby usually does not have any problems attributable to a Parvovirus B19 infection.
However, sometimes a Parvovirus B19 infection will cause an unborn baby to have severe anemia and the woman may have a miscarriage. This occurs in less than 5% of all pregnant women who are infected with Parvovirus B19 and occurs more commonly during the first half of pregnancy. Parvovirus B19 infection does not cause birth defects or mental retardation.
If you have been in contact with someone who has Fifth disease, or if you have an illness that might be caused by Parvovirus B19, contact your personal provider. Your provider may recommend that you have a blood test.
A blood test for Parvovirus B19 may show whether you are immune to Parvovirus B19, or if you may have had a recent infection. If you are immune, you have nothing further to be concerned about. If you have had a recent infection, your provider will talk with you about how to monitor your pregnancy.
There is no standard way to monitor a pregnant woman who has a documented Parvovirus B19 infection. Some providers consider this a low-risk condition and continue to provide routine prenatal care. Other providers may increase the frequency of office visits and perform blood tests and ultrasound examinations to monitor the health of the unborn baby. However, the benefit of these tests in this situation is not clear. If the unborn baby appears to be ill, there are special diagnostic and treatment options available. Your provider will discuss with you the potential benefits and risks of the different options.
There is no vaccine or medicine that prevents Parvovirus B19 infection. Frequent hand washing is a practical and effective method to reduce the spread of Parvovirus. Excluding persons with Fifth disease from work, child care centers, schools, or other settings is not likely to prevent the spread of Parvovirus B19 because people are only contagious before they develop a rash.
The CDC does not recommend that pregnant women be excluded from a workplace where a Fifth disease outbreak is occurring. As always, your best protection is good hand washing and standard precautions regardless of your patient's diagnosis. If you are not immune and are concerned about your individual risk of being around patients with diagnosed Parvovirus B19, talk with your provider and Occupational Health.
Keywords: Parvovirus, fifth disease