Slapped cheek syndrome is a viral infection affecting children aged between 3 and 15 years. Infection with parvovirus B19 causes the condition. This virus is an airborne virus transmitted in much the same way as the cold or flu virus, through inhalation of infected droplets suspended in the atmosphere as a result of infected individuals sneezing or coughing. After inhaling the virus, a child usually takes around a week or two to manifest symptoms.
Symptoms of slapped cheek syndrome may occur as follows:
In adults, parvovirus B19 infection leads to joint pain and stiffness. especially in the knees, wrists, fingers and ankles. There may rarely be other symptoms such as fever, weakness, headache and sore throat. The symptoms usually pass within a couple of weeks but may last longer, leading to residual joint pain and stiffness.
Persons at high risk of more severe complications include pregnant women who may miscarry if the infection causes severe anaemia in the foetus, elderly individuals with low immunity in whom symptoms may be more severe or prolonged, and people with blood disorders such as sickle cell anaemia, thalassaemia and spherocytosisin in whom anaemia may, again, be more dangerous. In addition symptoms may be more serious in people with weakened immune system such as individuals positive for HIV or those undergoing chemotherapy or taking steroids.