Parvovirus infection

Parvovirus infection is a common and highly contagious childhood ailment — sometimes called slapped-cheek disease because of the distinctive face rash that develops. Parvovirus infection also has been known as fifth disease because, historically, it was one of five common childhood illnesses characterized by a rash.

In most children, parvovirus infection is mild and requires little treatment. However, in some adults, the infection can be serious. Parvovirus infection in some pregnant women can lead to serious health problems for the fetus. Parvovirus infection is also more serious for people with some kinds of anemia or who have a compromised immune system.

Symptoms Causes Complications Prevention

Most people with parvovirus infection have no signs or symptoms. When symptoms do appear, they vary greatly depending on the age of the person who has the disease.

Parvovirus symptoms in children

Early signs and symptoms of parvovirus infection in children may include:

  • Sore throat
  • Slight fever
  • Upset stomach
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Itching

Distinctive facial rash

Several days after the appearance of early symptoms, a distinctive bright red facial rash may appear — usually on both cheeks. Eventually it may extend to the arms, trunk, thighs and buttocks, where the rash has a pink, lacy, slightly raised appearance.

Generally, the rash occurs near the end of the illness. It's possible to mistake the rash for other viral rashes or a medicine-related rash. The rash may come and go for up to three weeks, becoming more visible when a child is exposed to extreme temperatures or spends time in the sun.

Parvovirus symptoms in adults

Adults don't usually develop the slapped-cheek rash. Instead, the most prominent symptom of parvovirus infection in adults is joint soreness, lasting days to weeks. Joints most commonly affected are the hands, wrists, knees and ankles.

When to see a doctor

Generally, you don't need to see a doctor for parvovirus infection. But if you or your child has an underlying condition that may increase the risk of complications, make an appointment with your doctor. These conditions include:

  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Impaired immune system
  • Pregnancy

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