The most common illness caused by this virus is fifth disease, a mild rash illness that occurs most often in children. The ill child typically has a "slapped cheek" rash on the face and a lacy, red rash on the torso and limbs. Occasionally, the rash may itch. The child is usually not very ill, and the rash resolves in 7 to 10 days. Once a child recovers from the parvovirus B19 infection, he or she develops lasting immunity, which means that the child is protected against future infection.
An adult who has not previously been infected with parvovirus B19 can be infected and become ill. Unlike a child's fifth disease symptoms, adults can develop arthritis symptoms that include joint pain, swelling, or both. Usually, joints on both sides of the body are affected. The joints most frequently affected are the hands, wrists, and knees. The joint pain and swelling usually go away in a week or two, but can last for several months. It is often mistaken for rheumatoid arthritis.
Adults can also get a rash with fifth disease, but it is most often absent or does not have the "slapped cheek" look that is seen in children.
Transient Aplastic Crisis
People with chronic conditions that affect the blood can develop a transient aplastic crisis when infected with parvovirus B19. A transient aplastic crisis is when the body stops making red blood cells. This can result in severe anemia.
All chronic hemolytic diseases can be affected, including:
- Sickle cell anemia (an inherited condition that results in the destruction of red blood cells)
- Hereditary spherocytosis (an inherited condition that causes anemia as the result of a defect in the outside of red blood cells)
- Thalassemia (a group of inherited diseases of the blood)
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Autoimmune hemolysis (a type of anemia)
- Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (breakdown of red blood cells, characterized by dark-colored urine).
Aplastic crisis symptoms seen with a parvovirus B19 infection can include:
- Extreme tiredness
- Severe anemia.
This anemia can be life-threatening and may require an immediate blood transfusion.