Adults get infected with the parvovirus that causes joint pain through contact with an infected person's secretions or by breathing in aerosolized virus, according to Mayo Clinic. In this way, catching parvovirus is very much like catching a cold.
Though most parvovirus infections occur in children, when they occur in adults the symptoms are a bit more severe, according to MedicineNet. They resemble the flu and the patient may develop a lace-like rash over his body. The joint pain and swelling, which is called polyarthropathy syndrome, usually goes away after a few weeks with no lingering effects, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, a some adults go on to have a condition very much like rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease, says MedicineNet.
As with the common cold, there is no vaccine or medicine that protects against parvovirus, says MedicineNet. The best way to prevent the disease is to wash the hands frequently and adopt other practices that promote good hygiene. However, adults with the type of parvovirus arthritis that mimics rheumatoid arthritis are treated with anti-inflammatory medications.
The parvovirus that causes illness in humans, B-19, is not the same as the parvovirus that causes illness in animals, according to Mayo Clinic. Humans and animals with parvovirus cannot infect each other.