Parvovirus infection is a very common condition seen amongst children and young adults in the US. The infection is highly contagious and can cause distinctive face rashes in children. Also known as slapped-cheek disease, the condition is usually mild in nature and requires minimal treatment. Yet in some cases, especially in adults, the infection can be very serious and lead to many other health complications. For instance, parvovirus infection in pregnant women can cause some serious health risks to the fetus, while it can also affect the immunity power and lead to anemia in some severe cases.


The condition usually exhibits no apparent symptoms in most people. Yet some of the early signs of the infection may be fever, stomach problems, headache, runny nose, skin irritation, itchiness, etc. In most of the cases, a unique bright red rash might appear on the face after a few days of the early symptoms. The rashes might gradually extend to the thighs, arms, trunk, feet, and buttocks as well, sometimes developing into a pinkish and slightly raised rashes. The rashes might be itchy as well, especially when they appear on the soles of the feet.

Typically, the rashes appear when the infection is at its ending stages. That is why some people might mistake the rashes as a side effect of the medications taken for the symptoms experienced earlier. However, the rashes might reappear in some children and adults, and might not go until a couple of weeks. In such cases, the rashes would be more visible when the person is out in the sun for long hours or is exposed to high temperatures.

Although adults do not develop the distinct slapped-cheek rash in most cases, parvovirus infection can lead to other problems to them, such as joint pain and muscle soreness, which can last for weeks. Generally, the joints and muscles in the hands, knees, wrists, and ankles are affected by the disease, which can make performing daily tasks a lot difficult for the person. Besides, the infection can be quite annoying for people who already have an underlying condition such as sickle cell anemia or rheumatoid arthritis.


Parvovirus infection is caused by the human parvovirus B19. The disease is most commonly diagnosed amongst elementary school-age kids, especially during the winter and spring months. However, the infection can happen to anyone and at any time of the year. The condition is highly contagious and can spread from one person to another through respiratory discharges or hand-to-hand contact, just as it is seen in common cold. The infection can also spread through blood and can be passed on by a pregnant mother to her baby. However, parvovirus infection is contagious only when it is in its early stages and does not spread once the rashes start to appear.

In people with anemia, the disease can lead to some serious complications by stopping the production of red blood cells in the body. As the red blood cells carry oxygen to the different parts of the body, a shortage of red blood cells can lead to many health problems, including heart and lung issues. In fact, parvovirus infection can even cause anemia and related complications in people who have weaker immunity power. Besides, it can also cause iron deficiency in the baby and lead to anemia if the mother is infected with parvovirus during pregnancy. In some rare cases, the disease can even lead to miscarriage or stillbirth, especially if the infection happens during the first trimester of pregnancy.

The infection can be worse in case the person has an HIV infection or has undergone cancer treatments, which would have made his/her immune system weaker. That is why it is recommended to consult with a doctor at the nearest community healthcare center as soon as any early signs of parvovirus infection are noticed. Note that there is no vaccine to prevent the infection either, and timely intervention and proper treatment to stop its effects on the body is the only way to deal with the condition.


Non-complicated parvovirus infection can be treated at home with simple remedies. To get some relief from the symptoms, the patient is advised to drink a lot of fluids and take proper rest. Some doctors might prescribe acetaminophen to help reduce body temperature and to ease minor pains as well. In more severe cases though, such as when the patient has anemia, a blood transfusion might be recommended to treat the condition. Similarly, people with weak immune systems would also need advanced treatment to deal with the infection. In such cases, immune globulin injections and receiving antibodies is recommended to reduce the effects of parvovirus infection.

Community healthcare centers advise against the use of aspirin to children and teenagers diagnosed with the disease, especially if the kid is recovering from any other condition like chickenpox or flu. This is because the use of aspirin in such circumstances can lead to Reye’s syndrome in children, which, although rare, can be a life-threatening condition.

Book an Appointment

    About the Author

    Dr. Ghassan M. Al-Jazayrly, MD

    A graduate of University of Aleppo Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Al-Jazayrly or, as he is colloquially known: Dr. AJ, is an oncologist and hematologist of a Complete Care Community Health Center (CCCHC) with more than 36 years of experience. In recent years, he’s been involved with a non profit organization known as Every Woman Counts (EWC) which provides free breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services to California’s underserved populations in order to eliminate health disparities for low-income individuals.

    To Book an Appointment

    We are standing by to assist you.

    Please call 310-706-2594