Parvovirus Infection (Slapped Cheek Syndrome)

Parvovirus Infection (Slapped Cheek Syndrome)

What it is:

Slapped cheek disease is a viral illness that is caused by the Human Parvovirus B19. It is sometimes called ‘Fifth Disease’ or ‘erythema infectiosum’ and mainly occurs in the spring season, usually affecting young children from 3-15years.
Parvovirus can only be caught once as the body’s immune system will create antibodies to the virus, developing lifelong immunity to the disease.


How is it spread?

Parvovirus mainly spreads through contact with infected secretions from the nose or throat of a person who is is also spread in the air like cold and flu viruses, when someone coughs or sneezes. The period from exposure to onset of the rash (incubation period) is 4-20days.


The initial symptoms resemble that of the Flu and usually last a few days. They include:

  • Fever up to 380C
  • Sore throat and headache
  • Stomach ache
  • Feeling tired
  • Itchy skin
  • Joint pains
  • Rash

The Parvovirus Rash

The rash looks like a bright red scald that appears on one or both cheeks-the appearance is that of a slapped cheek, hence the name. The rash can sometimes appear blotchy but is painless. It can also appear widespread over the body and can, occasionally, fade and return after several weeks. However, it is more common for the rash to come and go in several days.
Despite its dramatic appearance, Slapped Cheek disease is a mild illness.


There is no specific treatment for slapped cheek disease and none is needed as it resolves itself fairly quickly. The aim is to relieve the symptoms as they present themselves. Paracetamol or ibuprofen can be given for fever or pain.

Complications of Parvovirus Infection

Parvovirus can cause a temporary halt in the production of blood cells. In people who are normally healthy, this is usually not noticed, but can be a problem in individuals who have a blood disorder or a weakened immune system. Individuals with these conditions should seek advice from their doctor if they have been in contact with someone with parvovirus infection.

For further information, contact the Infection Prevention and Control Department at St Bernard’s Hospital
Telephone: 20072266 Ext 2315