Human parvovirus B19 infection among hospital staff members after contact with infected patients

N Engl J Med. 1989 Aug 24;321(8):485-91. doi: 10.1056/NEJM198908243210801.


In the spring and summer of 1988, two separate outbreaks of an illness with a rash resembling erythema infectiosum occurred among members of the nursing staff of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The sources were two adolescent patients with sickle cell disease and aplastic crisis who had unsuspected parvovirus infection. Tests for IgM and IgG antibodies to parvovirus B19 were positive in both patients, and electron microscopical examination showed parvovirus-like particles in the early serum samples. Of 40 health care workers exposed to infected patients, 12 (30 percent) were infected, 2 (5 percent) were possibly infected, 8 (20 percent) had evidence of a past infection with B19, and 18 (45 percent) remained seronegative. Attack rates among the susceptible contacts were 36 percent in the first outbreak and at least 38 percent in the second. Clinical symptoms began a mean of 12.6 days after exposure and included malaise, rash, and joint pain. We conclude that hospital workers are at risk of contracting nosocomial erythema infectiosum from patients with parvovirus-associated aplastic crisis. We recommend that all patients with hereditary hemolytic anemias who are admitted with a febrile illness be evaluated for aplasia and promptly placed in respiratory and contact isolation if aplastic crisis is suspected.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / complications
  • Antibodies, Viral / analysis
  • Cross Infection / transmission*
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital*
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Parvoviridae / isolation & purification
  • Parvoviridae Infections / diagnosis
  • Parvoviridae Infections / epidemiology
  • Parvoviridae Infections / transmission*
  • Philadelphia


  • Antibodies, Viral