Parvovirus (Slapped Cheek Syndrome) fact sheet
Parvovirus B19 infection (Slapped Cheek Syndrome)
(also called Erythema Infectiosum or fifth disease)
This illness, is a mild viral disease mainly occurring during late winter and early spring. It only affects humans and predominately affects children. About 50 per cent of all adults have been infected during childhood or adolescence.
The most common illness caused by parvovirus B19 is a mild rash illness. The infected person typically has a ‘slapped cheek’ rash on the face and an itchy, lace like rash occurring on the body and limbs, often the infected person has a runny nose and sore throat. The infected person is usually not very ill and the rash resolves in 7 – 10 days. Once a person recovers from parvovirus B19, they develop lasting immunity and are protected against further infection.
An adult who develops parvovirus B19 may have no symptoms at all, or may develop a rash, joint pain or swelling or both. The joint symptoms usually resolve in a week or two, but can last longer.
Parvovirus B19 is usually a mild illness. It resolves without treatment among children and adults who are otherwise healthy.
Between 4 to 20 days.
Persons are contagious before the rash develops and once the rash appears, those who have no underlying immune deficiency are usually no longer infectious.
Parvovirus B19 and Pregnancy
Usually there is no serious complication for a pregnant woman or her unborn baby following exposure to a person with parvovirus B19.
About 50 per cent of women are already immune to this infection, and these women and their unborn babies are protected from illness and infection.
Even if a woman is susceptible and gets infected with parvovirus B19, she usually experiences only a mild illness.
Likewise, her unborn baby usually does not have any problems attributable to parvovirus B19 infection.
Sometimes, however, parvovirus B19 infection will cause the unborn baby to have severe anaemia and the woman may have a miscarriage. This occurs in less than 5 per cent of all pregnant women who are infected with parvovirus B19 and occurs more commonly during the first half of pregnancy.
There is no evidence that parvovirus B19 infection causes birth defects or mental retardation.
There is no universal recommended approach to monitor a pregnant woman who has a documented parvovirus B19 infection. Some doctors treat a parvovirus B19 infection in a pregnant woman as a low-risk condition and continue to provide routine prenatal care. Other physicians may increase the frequency of doctors visits and perform blood tests and ultrasound examinations to monitor the health of the unborn baby. The benefit of these tests in this situation, however, is not clear.
A blood test for parvovirus B19 may show that you are immune to parvovirus and do not have the infection, are not immune and could be infected if exposed, or have had a recent infection.
If the unborn baby appears to be ill, there are special diagnostic and treatment options available, and your obstetrician will discuss these options with you and their potential benefits and the risks.
Controlling the spread of infection
The virus is spread by contact with infected respiratory secretions (for example, by coughing), and from mother to unborn child.
There is no vaccine or medicine that prevents parvovirus B19 infection.
Frequent, good handwashing practices, not sharing food, utensils or handkerchiefs will assist in controlling the spread of this virus.
Surfaces contaminated by respiratory secretions need to be cleaned thoroughly.
Excluding persons with parvovirus B19 from work, child care centres, schools, or other settings is not likely to prevent the spread of parvovirus B19, since ill persons are contagious before they develop the rash.
Pregnant women should not routinely be excluded from a workplace where an outbreak of parvovirus B19 is occurring because of the high prevalence of the infection, the low risk during pregnancy, and because school or child care centre outbreaks are generally indicative of other inapparent and unavoidable sources of spread in the wider community. Pregnant women who are concerned should discuss this further with their family doctor or obstetrician.
For further information on this illness, contact the Communicable Diseases Prevention Unit on 1800 671 738.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Parvovirus B19 Infection (Fifth Disease) Infection and Pregnancy. www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/parvovirus/B19&preg.htm
Staying Healthy in Child Care 3rd edition. December 2003. http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/publications/synopses/ch40syn.htm