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Fifth Disease (Parvovirus 19)

The initial infection, if mom hasn’t had it before, of Parvovirus 19, or fifth disease, can cause problems in pregnancy. More than half of all adults have antibodies, or immunity, to fifth disease since they have had the infection before, so it is fairly common.

What are the symptoms of Parvovirus 19?

The symptoms include fever, headache, sore throat, joint aches, and red cheeks (slapped cheeks). It takes about 4 to 14 days to show symptoms and it is contagious or spread before people show the symptoms. The red cheeks are where it gets the name “fifth disease”, since it was the fifth described of six classic diseases in childhood that had a rash.

What if I get Parvovirus 19 when I am pregnant?

Fifth disease doesn’t cause birth defects but about 10% of infected fetuses (babies) will develop complications. Most concerning, the complications include an increase in the risk of miscarriage early in pregnancy or stillbirth later in pregnancy. Also, the infection can cause anemia (not enough red blood cells), heart inflammation, and hydrops (extra fluid in the tissues) in the fetus. Those problems can lead to fetal loss or complications, such as breathing problems, after birth.

How would I contract Parvovirus 19?

Fifth disease is transmitted by respiratory droplets, so pregnant women should avoid children and adults that are coughing and not share drinks, cups, food, or utensils with others. Washing hands often and avoiding children and adults with the illness, and those that have been around them before they showed symptoms, helps prevent transmission. There is no vaccine or cure, so treatment just helps with the symptoms and complications.