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Parvovirus, or human parvovirus B19, is a common virus that spreads easily from person to person. It causes an illness known as “fifth disease.” Human parvovirus B19 is not the same as the parvovirus that affects dogs.
Parvovirus can cause:
Sometimes, the rash spreads to other parts of the body.
If your child has any of these symptoms, tell your doctor. To test for parvovirus, the doctor will check your child’s blood counts. The results from a parvovirus test may take several days.
Parvovirus can cause an aplastic crisis in people with sickle cell disease and other red blood cell diseases.
In most people, red blood cells live for about 4 months. In people with sickle cell and other blood diseases, red blood cells only live for about 2 weeks. Parvovirus can shut down the body’s ability to make new red blood cells for 7–10 days. When the body cannot make new red blood cells due to parvovirus, blood counts can drop to low levels in someone with a blood disease. This is known as aplastic crisis.
Aplastic crisis causes severe anemia (too few red blood cells in the body). During an aplastic crisis, your child may look pale and feel weak or tired. Your child may also have a fever, fast heartbeat, or shortness of breath. People with sickle cell disease often do not get a rash.
It is rare for an aplastic crisis to happen more than once. Most people only get sick from parvovirus once in their life.
There is no medicine to stop parvovirus. It goes away on its own in about 10 days. The body starts to make new red blood cells again. If your child's blood count drops too low during an aplastic crisis, they may need a blood transfusion.
This virus spreads easily. If you have parvovirus, you should stay away from people who:
To help prevent parvovirus, stay away from people with colds or other infections. Wash your hands often.
If you have questions, talk to your child's doctor or hematologist. If your child has sickle cell disease or another red blood cell disease and shows symptoms of an aplastic crisis, call your child’s doctor or nurse right away. If you cannot reach your doctor, go to the emergency room.
Reviewed: September 2022