Parvovirus Infection (Erythema infectiosum)

The Parvovirus (Erythema infectiosum), is also called 5th disease. It is caused by the parvovirus B19, which is transmitted by respiratory tract, hand to mouth contact, blood products or during pregnancy.

Parvovirus is a very common and contagious disease

  • This very common and contagious virus can spread very easily and quickly, however the illness is usually short and mild.
  • The rash can be dramatic but is harmless.
  • The virus poses a risk to pregnant woman, which can be passed on to her baby and cause harm.

Transmission of the virus

  • The incubation of the virus is from 10 to 21 days before the onset of the rash. Once the rash appears it is no longer contagious.
  • You have life long immunity after having the virus.
  • The virus is transmitted:
    • by direct contact with an infected individual: either by touching him or when that he sneezes or breaths out.
    • by indirect contact with an object to which the infected individual touched


Symptoms are often mild to moderate and not harmful
  • A classic 'slapped cheek' rash appears on the face, which can look a little puffy. This disappears after 3 -5 days.
  • Mild headache, fever, general malaise.
  • Sometimes nausea, abdominal pain and joint stiffness can occur.
  • Soon after the facial rash appears a red macular rash develops on the arms and legs which fades over 1 - 3 weeks, but can reappear after exposure to sunlight and heat.


There is no treatment or vaccination for parvovirus.

Prevention of spread of infection is however essential, especially to those at risk (the immunocompromised and pregnant)

Risks for a pregnant women

  • An expectant mother who was in contact with a child or an adult affected by this virus must consult a doctor
  • A blood test should be taken as soon as possible after coming into contact with a person with parvovirus. If there is a negative result then a repeat blood test should be taken a month later.
  • If infected with the virus before 20 weeks, miscarriage can occur or fetal hydrops (fluid accumulation in the heart and lungs) can occur.
  • Most adults are immune to parvovirus, but it is still better to seek advice during pregnancy if exposed to the infection.
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