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human parvovirus

Jun 18, 1998

does this virus belong to the hiv or retrovirus family like herpes?

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question. Human Parvovirus B19 is a DNA virus (not a retrovirus, which is made of RNA). This virus is in the Parvoviridae family of viruses. This is a very common virus. In the USA, it is estimated that roughly 5-10% of children less than 5 years old have had the virus. In adults, it is estimated that greater than 50% have been infected sometime in their life.

This virus is transmitted primarily through respiratory secretions. It can also be transmitted from mother-to-child, and rarely by receiving a blood transfusion.

Human Parvovirus B19 can cause an illness called "Erythema Infectiosum", also known as "Fifth Disease". However, more than 25% of infections may be asymptomatic (no symptoms at all). This infection can cause a rash on the cheeks, trunk of the body, and the extremities, especially in children. Adults do not normally have a rash, but can have joint pain lasting for several days to several months. The symptoms of this illness resembles the symptoms of many other illnesses. Only a doctor can diagnose this infection, through laboratory tests. The symptoms generally begin 4-20 days after infection, but this period of time is variable from one person to another. Generally speaking, this virus is most infectious just before the rash begins and is probably not infectious after the onset of the rash. This infection often resolves on its own. This virus can also cause complications in pregnant women.

In persons with weakened immune systems (including AIDS), this virus can also cause severe chronic anemia (low red blood cell count), which can then lead to severe fatigue. In people with damaged immune systems and severe anemia, this infection may be infectious for months to years. Intravenous immunoglobulin has been successfully used to treat anemia in immunosupressed persons with anemia, but relapses can occur.

For most people, this virus is not a significant concern, since many people do not show any symptoms, or the symptoms resolve on their own. However, in persons with weakened immune systems and in pregnant women, this virus can cause significant clinical problems. Therefore, if at all possible, persons with weakened immune systems and pregnant women, should avoid contact with persons known to be infectious for this virus.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).

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