Parvovirus B19

Other names: Parvo B19; Fifth Disease Test; Erythema Infectiosum; Parvovirus

Parvovirus B19 is a form of virus, which causes the common illness known as erythema infectiosum (also known as fifth disease); the condition is common in children. The infection is spread easily from person to person via the transfer of infected droplets, usually through sneezing or coughing. The virus is very common and it is estimated that 60% of UK adults have been infected by the parvovirus B19 at some stage in their lives.

There are different types of test that can be done to check for the presence of the parvovirus B19; the blood test is usually used to detect antibodies to the virus.

When is the test used?

The test is used to determine whether a patient has been exposed to the parvovirus B19; the test is generally used to test for an active infection or to check for immunity for those who are at high risk of developing the infection, for example, those with sickle cell anaemia and those with compromised immune systems.

The test is usually ordered if a doctor suspects that the patient has come into contact with the virus; usually, a physical examination will be enough for the doctor to diagnose the condition (usually a distinctive rash develops).

The test may be ordered if a doctor suspects that a pregnant woman has been exposed to the virus and is suffering from symptoms similar to those associated with flu.

How is the test done?

The test is done by taking a sample of blood from the patient’s arm; usually a needle in inserted into a vein on the inside of the elbow to draw out the blood. The blood is then collected in a syringe before being bottled, labelled with the patient’s name and sent off to the laboratory for evaluation.

What do the test results mean?

The blood test is used to detect antibodies, which have been produced by the body to fight off the virus. The presence of different types of antibody may indicate when the person was infected. If the test shows that both IgG and IgM antibodies are present in the blood sample, this usually indicates that the patient has an active or very recent infection. If the test shows only IgM antibodies, this may mean that the patient has been exposed to the virus very recently. If the test shows that only IgG antibodies are present, this means that the patient had an infection in the past and has now built up immunity to the virus.

Specific Blood Tests

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