What is Slapped Cheek Virus?
It is a common childhood viral infection caused by human parvovirus B 19. Fifty to Sixty percent of women are immune by the time they reach childbearing age. Occasionally, an unborn baby of a non immune mother can develop problems if infected before the 20th week.
What are the symptoms?
Most cases experience no symptoms at all, though Slapped cheek disease usually starts with a fever and other flu-like symptoms, such as a sore throat and aches and pains.
Children have a striking redness of the cheeks which may be accompanied by a lacy looking rash which fades within a week but can re-occur when exposed to heat or sunlight.
Adults often do not have a rash but may have cold type symptoms and/or painful or swollen joints over two to three days.
How is it spread?
It is spread by coughing, sneezing or touching something that has been coughed or sneezed on. About 50 percent of non-immune people will become infected if there is a case in the household. Cases are infectious before the onset of the rash and probably not infectious after the rash appears.
The incubation period is 1 to 2 weeks.
How can it affect my baby?
The risk to unborn babies is low. Spread from mother to baby can only occur if the mother is not immune. Even if the mother is affected only one third of babies will develop the infection (generally about one month after the mother’s illness.) There is a small risk of miscarriage if you have it during the first 20 weeks or pregnancy.
Very rarely, slapped cheek disease can also cause a condition called hydrops fetalis if you have it between 9 and 20 weeks of pregnancy.
For most babies, slapped cheek disease is a mild illness. But it can be more serious for babies with sickle cell disease or thalasseamia.
How can I protect my baby?
Washing hands before eating or touching your face can help prevent infection. Avoid sharing cutlery, cups and plates.
What action should I take if I think I have been exposed
A pregnant woman who believes she has been in contact with a case of the infection should contact her GP even if she has no symptoms .Blood testing can assist in advising women who are pregnant if they have Parvovirus or have had it in the past. There is no risk to a woman (or her baby) that already has immunity.
If active infection is diagnosed the health of your baby will be closely monitored.
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