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Why does parvovirus cause joint pain in some affected adults?

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Parvovirus B19 causes an illness known as fifth disease, which in adults may lead to polyarthropathy syndrome, particularly in women. It is a condition marked by pain and swelling in the joints, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The primary symptom of fifth disease is a mild rash.

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The joint pain in adults with fifth disease could develop in the hands, feet and knees, and could last from a few weeks to up to a few months, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adults may not develop a rash at all, and children who have the disease generally do not suffer from joint pain. Individuals with fifth disease are most contagious before they develop the main symptoms of the disease: rash and joint pain. Parvovirus B19 spreads through secretions from the respiratory system of an infected person after he coughs or sneezes. Prevention techniques include encouraging frequent washing of hands; not touching the eyes, nose or mouth; covering the mouth and nose area when sneezing or coughing; and encouraging infected individuals to stay home.

There is no comprehensive treatment for fifth disease as it usually plays it out its course without causing any long-term harm, states the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although it is usually mild, the disease can cause complications in those with compromised immune systems.

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