About Parvovirus B19
Parvovirus B19 infects only humans. You can have a range of symptoms depending on your age and overall health. About 2 out of 10 people who get infected with this virus will not have any symptoms. Others may have only mild, cold-like illness.
Parvovirus B19 most commonly causes fifth disease, a mild rash illness that usually affects children.
Other much less common symptoms of parvovirus B19 infection include painful or swollen joints (polyarthropathy syndrome), which is more common in adults, and severe anemia (a condition in which the body doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells). In rare cases, some of these symptoms can persist for a long time.
Parvovirus B19 spreads through respiratory secretions (such as saliva, sputum, or nasal mucus) when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Parvovirus B19 can also spread through blood or blood products. A pregnant woman who is infected with parvovirus B19 can pass the virus to her baby.
In parts of the world with changing seasons, people tend to get infected with parvovirus B19 more often in late winter, spring, and early summer. Local outbreaks of parvovirus B19 infection occur about every 3 to 4 years.
Pet dogs and cats can get infected with other parvoviruses that do not infect humans. Pets can be vaccinated to protect them from parvovirus infection.
Since parvovirus B19 only infects humans, a person cannot get the virus from a dog or cat. Also, dogs and cats cannot get parvovirus B19 from an infected person.
A blood test can be done to determine if you are susceptible or immune to parvovirus B19 infection or if you were recently infected. The blood test may be particularly helpful for pregnant women who may have been exposed to parvovirus B19 and are suspected to have fifth disease.
There is no vaccine or medicine that can prevent parvovirus B19 infection. You can reduce your chance of being infected with parvovirus B19 or infecting others by
- washing your hands often with soap and water
- covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
- not touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
- avoiding close contact with people who are sick
- staying home when you are sick
All healthcare providers and patients should follow strict infection control practices to prevent parvovirus B19 from spreading. For information about handwashing, see CDC's Clean Hands Save Lives!
- Page last reviewed: November 2, 2015
- Page last updated: November 2, 2015
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