This virus caused the death of 5 infants. What should parents do to avoid it according to our expert?

This virus caused the death of 5 infants.  What should parents do to avoid it according to our expert?

Parvovirus B19 infections are increasing in Europe and have caused the death of five children under the age of one. What is this disease? How to prevent it? How to treat it? Advice from Dr. Gérald Kierzek, emergency physician and medical director of TipsForWomens.

Since May 2023, Europe has been facing an increase in cases of parvovirus B19 contamination, according to Public Health Europe (SPF) which is publishing a bulletin on the subject this Monday, April 22. This virus causes what is known as “fifth disease.” It can also cause serious infections, even fatal, in some cases. Let's do a check in.

What is parvovirus B19 infection?

Most of the time benign, Parvovirus B19 infection is the cause of “fifth disease” or erythema infectiosum. It is so called because it is the fifth pathology responsible for a rash in children after measles, chickenpox, rubella and roseola.

Parvovirus B19 infection can affect all age categories but particularly concerns children. It is contracted by droplets, coming from saliva or mucus, which a contaminated individual will disperse into their environment.

There is also a possibility of contamination through blood, blood products during blood transfusion and during pregnancy, from mother to child.

What are the symptoms of this viral infection?

Parvovirus B19 infection is often an asymptomatic pathology. It can also cause a fever or flu-like illness. When it causes erythema infectiosum, redness appears mainly on the cheeks of affected children and gives the infection its other name: “slapped cheek disease”.

Like measles, these rashes can spread throughout the child's body. The disease does not require school avoidance, because once symptoms appear, young patients are no longer contagious.

A dangerous virus in certain cases

But in some cases the virus can be dangerous. “Primary infection can cause severe symptoms in people with chronic hemolytic anemia, in immunocompromised people and in pregnant women, in whom it can be responsible for miscarriages and fetal-placental anasarca” recalls Public Health Europe.

Since the start of 2024, five deaths have been recorded: four newborns and a child under one year old. Public Health Europe emphasizes that “infection continues its rise in 2024 with a peak that has never been reached in March.”

The advice of Dr. Gérald Kierzek, against this virus

According to Dr. Gérald Kierzek, the treatment of erythema infectiosum is mainly symptomatic, because “this viral infection is usually mild and resolves on its own“. The doctor therefore recommends rest and hydration, as this can “help speed up healing.”

He also recommends taking antipyretics. “If you have a fever, you can take antipyretic medications such as paracetamol to reduce it and relieve headaches“.

Finally, to avoid any risk, the doctor recommends, in the event of contamination with parvorirus B19, “avoid close contact with other people, especially pregnant women, until symptoms disappear“.