Parvovirus B19 is a contagious infection that occurs more commonly in children than adults. In children, it causes fifth disease, also known as slapped-cheek disease because of its main symptom, a mild face rash.
Most adults have developed immunity to parvovirus because they either had it or were exposed to it as children. Parvovirus in pregnant women can cause a small risk of health problems for the fetus. Parvovirus can cause acute, severe anemia in people with sickle-cell anemia or immune deficiencies.
Other symptoms usually occur before the red facial rash. They include:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Nausea or diarrhea
- Red rash on the face after a few days (in children)
- Joint pain and swelling, especially in the hands, wrists, knees and ankles (in adults)
A physician can usually diagnose parvovirus by performing a physical exam and taking the patient's medical history. In children, the red facial rash is usually enough for the physician to make the diagnosis.
Adults or patients with complications such as pregnancy, anemia or weakened immune systems may require a blood test to confirm the diagnosis.