Parvovirus infection


Parvovirus infection is a prevalent and highly contagious childhood illness often referred to as slapped-cheek disease due to the recognizable facial rash it causes. Historically, it was termed fifth disease as it ranked fifth among common childhood illnesses characterized by a rash.

While most children experience mild symptoms requiring minimal treatment, the infection can pose serious risks for certain adults. Pregnant women infected with parvovirus may face significant health complications for the fetus, and individuals with specific types of anemia or compromised immune systems are at greater risk for severe illness.


Symptoms in children:

  • Early signs: Fever, upset stomach, headache, runny nose.
  • Distinctive facial rash: Several days into the illness, a bright red rash may emerge on both cheeks, eventually spreading to other areas like the arms, trunk, thighs, and buttocks. The rash typically has a pink, lacy, slightly raised appearance and may itch, especially on the soles of the feet. It can be mistaken for other viral rashes or medication-related rashes. The rash may come and go for up to three weeks, becoming more prominent in extreme temperatures or sunlight exposure.

Symptoms in adults:

In adults, parvovirus B19 infection typically manifests as flu-like symptoms, with a notable absence of the distinctive rash seen in children. Additionally, around 80% of infected adults commonly report joint pain, predominantly affecting the wrists, hands, and knees.

When to seek medical attention:

Generally, parvovirus infection doesn’t necessitate a doctor’s visit. However, individuals with underlying conditions that may increase the risk of complications should consult a healthcare professional. Such conditions include sickle cell anemia, impaired immune systems, and pregnancy.


Human parvovirus B19 is responsible for parvovirus infection, which differs from the strain affecting dogs and cats, making transmission between humans and pets impossible. This infection mainly affects elementary school-age children, especially during winter and spring outbreaks, but it can occur in individuals of any age at any time of the year. Transmission is similar to that of a cold, primarily through respiratory droplets, coughing, and saliva, facilitating spread through close interpersonal and hand-to-hand contact. Additionally, transmission can occur through blood, with pregnant women capable of passing the virus to their unborn babies. The contagious period lasts until the week before the onset of the characteristic rash, typically appearing four to 14 days after infection with parvovirus B19. Once the rash emerges, the individual or child is no longer contagious, eliminating the need for isolation.