Fifth Disease or Parvovirus B19:
What is Parvovirus B19?
Parvovirus B19 is a virus that commonly infects children. However, adults can also catch it. You may be more familiar with it as "Fifth Disease" or "Slapped-Cheek Syndrome".
What illnesses does Parvovirus B19 cause?
Parvovirus B19 commonly causes a mild rash-like illness, usually in children. Children with Fifth Disease typically have a rash on their face, described as a "slapped-cheek" rash because of its appearance. They may also have a lacy, red rash on their torso and limbs. In adults, Parvovirus B19 infection may result in symptoms such as joint pain and swelling (arthralgia). These symptoms are usually more common in adult women than in men. In general, these symptoms last for 2-4 weeks but they may persist for several months. However, many people with Parvovirus infections show no symptoms at all. People may simply be tired or have flu-like symptoms. Therefore, the only way to know if a person has Parvovirus B19 infection is to have a test for it.
What treatments are available?
Generally, patient management is supportive i.e. there is no specific treatment for B19 infection. However, treatments can be offered to relieve the symptoms associated with the infection such as Aspirin / Ibuprofen for arthritis / arthralgia, blood transfusions for Sickle-cell anaemia, leukemia, HIV/AIDS patient who becomes seriously anaemic. Intravenous immunoglobulin can be used to treat persistent infection in immunocompromised patients.
Parvovirus B19 in pregnancy:
How does Parvovirus B19 affect a pregnant mother?
Parvovirus B19 infection in pregnancy may have implications for the unborn baby. Usually, exposure to Parvovirus B19 in pregnancy will not result in serious complications. However, sometimes, if a pregnant women gets Parvovirus B19 infection it can cause the baby to become anaemic. If this becomes severe, she may lose the baby. This only happens in a small number of cases and treatments are available. There is no evidence that Parvovirus B19 causes birth defects or mental retardation.
What is my status? - How will I know if I am at risk of infection?
Approximately two thirds of adults will have been infected at some time in the past and are now considered to be immune to the virus. This means that about one third of adults are not immune. A simple test can tell you what your status is.
The test will tell you if you:
1. Had this infection before and may now be considered as immune.
2. Or if you have not had this infection before and may be at risk of infection.
3. Or if you currently have the infection.
What treatments are available if I get B19 infection when I am pregnant?
If the results of your blood test confirm that you have B19 infection and you are pregnant then your clinician may want to monitor your pregnancy more closely. The doctor may ask you to attend the clinic more frequently to carry out ultrasound examinations. If the baby becomes ill, then there are special treatment options available and in this event your obstetrician will discuss these with you in more detail. However, most Parvovirus B19 infections in pregnancy do not result in adverse outcomes.
For further information on fifth disease please click on www.fifthdisease.org