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Parvovirus infection or erythema infectiosum
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Parvovirus infection or erythema infectiosum

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Viral Illnesses



The human parvovirus B19 causes parvovirus infection. This isn't the same as the parvovirus seen in dogs and cats, so you can't get the infection from a pet or vice versa. Parvovirus B19 is most common among elementary school-age children during outbreaks in the winter and spring months, but anyone can become ill with it any time of the year. It spreads from person to person, just like a cold, often through respiratory secretions and hand-to-hand contact. The illness is contagious in the week before the rash appears. Once the rash appears, the person with the illness is no longer considered contagious and doesn't need to be isolated.

When to seek medical advice

If your child develops what appear to be signs and symptoms of parvovirus infection, but you're not sure, contact your doctor to see if there may be some other cause for the signs and symptoms.

If you're pregnant and you suspect you've been exposed to parvovirus, see your doctor. Some pregnant women with parvovirus infection pass the illness along to their fetus. Although the great majority of pregnant women who have parvovirus infection deliver a normal, healthy child, there's a risk to the fetus of severe and even life-threatening health conditions.

Screening and diagnosis

If a rash is present, your doctor may be able to make a diagnosis by examination. About half of adults are immune to parvovirus infection, most likely because of a previous, unnoticed, childhood infection. If you're pregnant or if you're an adult with a compromised immune system, blood tests can help determine if you're immune to the infection or if you've contracted the infection. The blood tests commonly used are tests for antibodies that are specific for parvovirus infection. Subsequent action depends on test results:

  • If the blood tests indicate immunity, you don't need to be concerned.

  • If the tests confirm evidence of recent parvovirus infection, you may need additional testing to determine what, if any, complications — such as anemia — need treatment.

  • If you're pregnant and you have parvovirus infection, your doctor may perform additional tests such as ultrasound and possibly additional blood tests to watch for possible fetal complications.


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Last Modified : 03/15/08 01:44 AM