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How Common Is Parvovirus B19 Infection Or Is It A Rare Disease & How Does It Affect The Body & What Triggers It?

Human parvovirus is an extremely common condition and in the United States, people tend to get parvovirus B19most commonly in the late winters and early spring.1, 2

Parvovirus can cause severe anemia in patients where the body doesn’t have healthy blood cells and also painful and swollen joints.3

The infection spreads through respiratory secretions when the infected individual coughs or sneezes.4

How Common Is Parvovirus B19 Infection Or Is It A Rare Disease?

Parvovirus B19 affects only humans. Most people affected by this condition show no symptoms, others may have a mild to moderate illness. Human parvovirus most commonly causes the fifth disease a viral disease often affecting children causing a red rash on the arms, legs, and cheeks.

The virus is widespread, and manifestations of infection depend on the immunologic and hematologic status of the infected individual. Parvovirus B19 is an extremely common condition. Medical studies demonstrate that people in the United States get affected by this condition in late winters, spring, and early summer.

Seropositivity rates are minimal in children aged between 2-5 however the rate increase by 50% in the adolescents most commonly at the age of 15 and gradually increases to 60% for people in their 30’s.  Mini outbreaks of the infection happen every 3-4 years based on statistical reports. It also shows parvovirus B19 affects only humans and not acquired from dogs or cats.1, 2

How Does Parvovirus B19 Infection Affect The Body?

Parvovirus B19 can cause severe anemia ( a condition in which you lack healthy blood cells or hemoglobin) that can make you weak and tired. Painful and swollen joints are one of the common symptoms affecting adults. It can affect hands, wrist, knees, and ankles that last for days to weeks.

Human parvovirus is the most common infection in children causing classic slapped cheek, a bright red rash on the cheek. Children with slapped cheek are infectious until one day after the fever has resolved. Generally, the rash occurs at the end of the illness and may come and go for two to three weeks. Although they have a rash, they don’t transmit infection at this stage. 3

What Triggers Parvovirus B19 Infection?

Parvovirus B19 is a contagious condition that spreads through respiratory droplets such as saliva, sputum, and mucus in the nasal when the affected individual cough or sneeze. It can also spread through blood transfusion and blood products. A pregnant woman who has been exposed to this virus can pass the infection to her baby.

Although some studies show that blood product is often too low to infect the fetus, evidence show infected mothers develop a range of complications that includes abortion, fetal death, severe anemia, and non-immune hydrops fetalis.

If you have parvovirus, you should stay away from people with sickle cell disease(blood disorder resulting in an abnormality of oxygen-carrying protein hemoglobulin) or blood-related disease. This can stop the spread of the infection.4

Parvovirus derived from the Latin word parvus meaning small belonging to the family parvoviridae divided into subfamilies parvovirinae and densovirniae affecting vertebrates and invertebrates. It easily spread from one individual to another however the symptoms vary between people based on their age and immunity level.

The symptoms include flu-like symptoms (cold, fever, nausea, and fatigue) joint pain and a bright red rash on the cheeks. There is no medicine to treat this condition but fortunately, it resolves on its own between 10-14 days. 


  1. “Parvovirus B19.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 Nov. 2019, www.cdc.gov/parvovirusb19/about-parvovirus.html.
  2. “Parvovirus Infection.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 15 Apr. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/parvovirus-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20376085.
  3. “Fifth Disease (Parvovirus B19).” org, www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/skin/Pages/Fifth-Disease-Parvovirus-B19.aspx.
  4. c=AU; o=The State of Queensland; ou=Queensland Health; ou=Communicable Diseases Branch; “Parvovirus B19.” Health Conditions Directory, CorporateName=The State of Queensland; Jurisdiction=Queensland, conditions.health.qld.gov.au/HealthCondition/condition/14/217/105/parvovirus-b19.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 12, 2020

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