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Human Parvovirus: Is It Just As Serious As Parvo In Animals?

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated May 05, 2023

    Human Parvovirus: Is It Just As Serious As Parvo In Animals?

    You’ve probably already heard about parvovirus or parvo in the context of the deadly infection that can affect animals, in particular, dogs. But, did you know that there’s a strain of parvo that can only infect humans? Is this strain just as deadly? Here’s what you need to know about parvovirus B19. 

    Human Parvovirus B19, An Overview

    Parvovirus B19 is another strain of the notorious parvo in animals; however, it can only infect humans. Of all its symptoms, the most distinctive is the red rash on the cheeks, that’s why many people also call it the “slapped-cheek disease.”

    This viral infection is common among children, and reports say it usually only produces mild symptoms in them. However, the disease can be serious in adults, especially in pregnant women as it can affect the fetus and people with certain types of anemia or are immunocompromised. 

    Traditionally, people also call it the 5th disease because it is the 5th most common disease in children that causes rash. 

    How Does Parvovirus B19 Spread?

    Human Parvo can spread through respiratory secretions, such as the saliva, mucus, and sputum when an infected person sneezes or coughs. Likewise, it can spread through blood or blood products. 

    When a pregnant woman contracts human parvo, she may pass it to her baby. Thus, any pregnant woman who suspects exposure or infection must contact their obstetrician right away. 

    Just a couple of reminders:

    As mentioned earlier, parvovirus B19 only infects humans. Hence, you cannot pass it to animals. Also, animal parvo is not transmissible to humans. 

    Signs and Symptoms of Human Parvovirus

    Human Parvovirus typically does not produce signs and symptoms. If it does, then it greatly depends on your age and general health condition. 

    Symptoms in Children

    The most striking symptom in children is the red rash on both of the cheeks. It may then spread to the trunk and limbs, looking bright pink and raised. The rash may also feel itchy, especially the ones at the soles of the feet. 

    In many cases, the slapped cheek appearance happens towards the end of the disease. But it can also appear and reappear within three weeks or look worse when the child is exposed to extreme temperature and/or a lot of stress. Parents can mistake the rash as another disease or allergy.

    Other symptoms in kids may include:

    • Fever
    • Headache
    • Upset tummy
    • Runny nose 

    Symptoms in Adults

    The slapped-cheek symptom typically does not occur in adults. In most cases, their symptoms mostly revolve around joint soreness in the wrists, hands, knees, and ankles. 

    Treatment and Management

    As mentioned above, Parvovirus B19 infection is usually mild. Being a viral infection/disease, it’s often self-limiting in children and adults in good health. In those cases, medical treatment is not necessary, but the following supportive measures might help: 

    • Taking paracetamol for pain and fever, particularly in kids
    • Taking ibuprofen for joint pains in adults
    • Getting enough rest and sleep
    • Drinking plenty of water

    However, if you develop symptoms and are pregnant or has an existing underlying condition (anemia, etc.), it’s crucial to consult your doctor right away. 


    There’s still no vaccine for human parvovirus, hence the best way to prevent is through common infection control methods, including:

    • Frequent handwashing
    • Covering the mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing
    • Avoiding touching the nose and mouth with unclean hands 
    • Avoid close contact with people who might have the infection
    • Isolating, if ever you develop the signs and symptoms 

    Key Takeaways

    Parvovirus B19 is a strain of parvo that only infects humans. In most cases, it doesn’t result in symptoms, and if it does, the symptoms are often mild and self-limiting; the patient might not need medical treatment. The most distinctive symptom in children is a bright red rash on both cheeks; in adults, it’s joint soreness. If you are pregnant and immunocompromised, working closely with your doctor is a must.

    Learn more about Infectious Diseases in Children here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


    Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated May 05, 2023

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