Recent outbreaks of erythema infectiosum (Fifth Disease) have caused consternation among pregnant women and their physicians, due to the risk of spontaneous abortion caused by this viral infection. This statement contains information concerning the infection and recommendations regarding control of exposure.

The agent of erythema infectiosum is a single-stranded DNA virus called parvovirus B19, which infects humans only.1,2 Parvovirus B19 is principally transmitted by respiratory secretions3 and a primary site of replication is the red cell precursors found in the bone marrow.4 After an incubation period of about a week's duration, the virus produces a febrile illness accompanied by reticulocytopenia, which lasts approximately 7 days.5

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