This article is your one-stop guide to knowing all about Parvovirus infection in human. It looks at how the infection affects both animals and humans, clearing doubts about how it spreads and whether it can be transmitted from animals to humans or vice-versa.
It describes the various symptoms, complications, and details out treatment methods.
What Is Parvo Virus?
Parvoviruses are one of the smallest DNA-containing viruses. Viruses of the Parvoviridae family infect a wide variety of animals. Its host ranges from insects to primates, and even humans.
While parvoviruses can cause a range of acute and chronic diseases, many of them do not cause any disease.
A. Parvovirus In Humans:
Parvovirus B19 is the only type that is found to be pathogenic in humans. It was discovered in 1975 when blood donors were tested for hepatitis B.
The virus can display various manifestations depending on the potential of the virus, how it adapts to its environment and the characteristics of the individual it affects.
Having a single strand DNA without a lipid coat makes it resistant to methods like freezing and disinfecting, which are usually used to kill viruses.
B. Parvovirus In Animals:
Canine parvovirus is a deadly disease mainly affecting young puppies. It may even prove fatal in some cases.
It can lead to diarrhea and dehydration and damage the intestines. Other symptoms widely exhibited include vomiting, fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy.
The feline parvovirus doesn’t infect dogs, although it has a DNA sequence almost identical to its canine strain. It is also known as feline distemper, causing fever, diarrhea, and can also lead to death.
Porcine parvovirus is known to affect reproduction in swine. Infection by this virus widely causes stillbirths, mummified fetuses, early embryonic death, and infertility.
Parvovirus infection in rats damages the central nervous system, liver, lymphoid system, and various tissues. It easily affects infants. In colonies with parvovirus infection, most rats become immune to the virus when they are seven months old.
Can I Catch Parvovirus From An Animal?
Do I Transmit It To Animals?
A given strain of parvovirus is usually known to infect a specific species of animal. It cannot be passed from one species to another.
Hence, we can say that canine parvovirus is limited to dogs, foxes, and wolves; mouse parvovirus affects mice, hamsters, and other rodents; porcine parvovirus is limited to pigs, and so on.
Similarly, the strains of parvovirus that infect human beings, is limited to humans. Humans alone can transmit it. The strain infecting animals is different from that in humans.
While animals cannot transmit the human parvovirus B19, humans are the main channel in transmitting the parvovirus in dogs and cats. This mostly happens due to lack of proper hygienic measures, while moving from one animal to another.
Hence, let me clarify that you cannot get the parvovirus infection from any animal. However, you may be part of transmitting it to both humans and animals.
Now let us look at the parvovirus in humans, in detail.
Parvovirus In Humans
Parvovirus B19 infects only humans.
This parvovirus infection is a common condition in childhood and is sometimes referred to as Slapped cheek disease. The name arises due to the characteristic rash that appears on the face.
The infection is also known as the Fifth disease since it was one of among the five common childhood ailments, characterized by the appearance of rashes.
Although this viral infection mostly occurs in children, it can affect people of all age groups. The infection can be transmitted from one person to the other.
Generally, it is a mild infection that is cured in a few weeks time. If you’ve had it once, you are usually immune to it for a lifetime.
Almost half the adult population have antibodies to parvovirus B19, which is usually acquired during childhood.
Symptoms Of Parvovirus Infection
The range of symptoms experienced depend on the age and general health conditions of the infected individual.
It has been found that about 2 out of 10 people infected by the parvovirus do not show any symptoms. In most people, symptoms of the infection are mild.
Here are the symptoms that can help you to identify the infection:
- Runny nose
- Red eyes
- Sore throat
- Muscle pain
- Red Rash – Rashes mostly begin on the face, it looks as though the child has been slapped on the cheek.
It may spread to the areas surrounding the nose and mouth. In some cases, it appears on the rest of the body as well. It may become itchy.
- Swelling or joint pain –This is mainly seen in older children and adults. They may experience a condition that seems similar to arthritis. Individuals may face difficulty in bending the knees, ankles, shoulders and wrists.
When Do The Symptoms Appear?
The incubation period of this viral infection is about 4-14 days.
You may experience a headache, mild fever, sore throat or a runny nose in the initial days before the rash appears.
Specific symptoms of rashes or joint pains may appear 2-3 weeks after the catching the infection. Adults do not usually develop the red rash. The rashes disappear in a few weeks’ time.
The infection is highly contagious in the few weeks preceding the specific symptoms.
Generally, the symptoms fade away in a few weeks, but it has known to last for two months in some cases.
Although the symptoms usually fade away in a few weeks, in some cases it may take months to heal.
Causes Parvo In Humans
The most common factors that lead to parvovirus infections include:
i. Physical contact with an infected person
ii. Sharing of objects
iii. Transmission through secretions like mucus, saliva, etc
iv. Blood transfusion
v. Bone marrow transplant
vi. From a pregnant woman, who is infected to the baby.
Who Are Vulnerable?
Parvovirus infection is commonly found in children between 3-15 years of age. They often transmit the infection to others around them.
The infection affects men and women in equal numbers. But risks due to contracting infection vary across individuals, with some people developing complications.
Complications Of Parvovirus Infections
Although this viral infection is mild for healthy individuals, it can develop complications in certain people. Let us understand the types of complications.
a. Pregnant Women:
Infection in non-immune women within the first three months of pregnancy may lead to hydrops fetalis. The virus retards the fetus’ ability to produce red blood cells, leading to severe anemia, heart failure, miscarriage or stillbirth.
b. Blood Disorder:
People with disorders like sickle cell or chronic anemia may develop a plastic crisis. The infection may stop production of red blood cells, causing anemia crisis.
c. Weak Immune System:
Those at risk include individuals with HIV/ AIDS, those who have undergone chemotherapy, or those taking immunosuppressive drugs. They may face chronic anemia.
d. Polyarthropathy Syndrome:
This is usually seen in older women who have contracted the infection. They may develop arthritis that affects small joints in the hands, feet, elbows and knees. However, parvovirus B19 infection cannot be associated with developing rheumatoid arthritis.
People with risks of developing complications should immediately seek medical assistance.
Diagnosis Of Parvo In Humans
In most cases, the rash on the face helps to diagnose the parvovirus infection.
Most parvovirus B19 infections do not require lab tests. The usually mild symptoms resolve within a few weeks.
Blood tests can determine whether you are immune or prone to the infection. This also helps to identify if you have had the infection before. It can be particularly useful for individuals who are susceptible to complications such as pregnant women and those with weak immune systems.
How To Prevent Parvovirus Infection In Human?
Since the infection is contagious only before symptoms begin to appear, it is not possible to completely prevent transmission.
Once the rashes appear, the infected person is no longer infectious and does not require isolation.
There are no vaccines or treatments to prevent parvovirus infection in humans. Fortunately, once infected by the virus, a person is immune to further infection throughout his life.
Nevertheless, there are practices you can adopt to reduce chances and transmission of infection. Some of them are:
i. Keep your hands clean through regular washing
ii. Follow good hygienic practices
iii. Cover your nose and mouth, while coughing and sneezing
iv. Avoid touching your mouth, eyes, and nose unnecessarily
v. Avoid physical contact with and going close to infected individuals
vi. Do not share objects with people who are infected.
vii. Maintain a healthy lifestyle- ensure good sleep, balanced diet, and regular exercise.
It is essential that all the members of the family, including children, follow good practices and maintain a healthy lifestyle to keep diseases and infection at bay.
Home Remedies To Get Rid Of Parvo In Humans
Although the parvovirus infection is a mild illness, the symptoms may cause you discomfort. Treatments at home can help to reduce symptoms and discomfort.
Proper rest and hydration are necessary. Drink plenty of fluids.
Here are some ways to help you to relieve rashes:
Oatmeal contains compounds that can reduce inflammation, itching, and rashes. It also moisturizes the skin.
Take a cup of raw oatmeal. Grind it into a fine powder. Put the oatmeal into a tub of warm water and stir to ensure it is evenly distributed. Soak in it for at least 15-20 minutes. Do not use hot water, as it will irritate the skin.
You may also make a paste of oatmeal with water to apply on the rash.
2. Aloe Vera:
Aloe is known to soothe the skin and relieve irritation. It also has antibacterial properties.
Take some fresh aloe vera gel, and apply it to the area with rashes. Keep it on for about 15 minutes, then rinse off.
3. Baking Soda:
Baking soda is effective to relieve irritations due to rashes.
To make a baking soda bath, you can add half a cup of baking soda to your bath water.
You may also use baking soda to make a mixture of water or a skin-friendly oil. You can apply this on the rash.
Take care not to leave baking soda on your skin for too long, as it may cause further irritation.
4. Olive Oil:
Olive oil can soothe irritated skin, to reduce discomfort. It acts as a moisturizer.
Pour out some olive oil and apply it on your rash. Do be harsh on the skin by excessive rubbing.
5. Apple Cider Vinegar:
Apple cider vinegar is an effective home remedy to treat rashes. It has excellent antiseptic and antifungal properties as well.
Soak some cotton in apple cider vinegar and place it on the affected skin for a few minutes. You can also mix it with water or honey.
To relieve other symptoms:
Ginger is antiviral in nature. It helps to fight the infection and reduces fever.
Mix half a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger, one tablespoon of lemon juice and a tablespoon of honey with boiling water. Consuming this will give you relief from fever and congestion.
There are many other methods to consume ginger.
Honey helps to relieve a sore throat, with its antimicrobial properties. It is also effective to heal coughs.
You can mix a tablespoon of honey and a tablespoon of lemon juice in warm water or tea. This will help to relieve congestion and sore throat.
8. Herbal Tea:
Herbal teas can relieve a sore throat and runny nose. Chamomile, ginger, and green tea are very effective home remedies. These can boost the immune system and deal with infections.
Raisins fight infections in the body and reduce fever.
To use this remedy, soak some raisins in half a cup of water until they become soft. Squeeze them and collect the water. Add some lemon juice to it and consume.
When Should I See The Doctor?
As we saw earlier, in most cases, the symptoms tend to resolve by themselves and you would not need to consult the doctor.
However, if you have any condition or disorder that puts you at a higher risk of complications, it is necessary that you seek medical assistance at the earliest.
Medical Treatment To Treat Parvo In Humans
There are no specific medicines or treatments to cure parvovirus infections. Doctors, however, may prescribe treatments to relieve symptoms.
In cases of complications, some of the procedures adopted include:
- Paracetamol or ibuprofen may be effectively used to control fever.
- Oral antihistamines can be administered for severe rashes or itching.
- Patients with disorders related to the blood may be given blood transfusions.
- Patients taking immunosuppressive drugs may be advised lower doses or given treatments, to enable the body to fight the infection and build resistance to further infections.