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Parvovirus B19 outbreak on an adult ward

  • C. Seng (a1), P. Watkins (a2), D. Morse (a1), S. P. Barrett (a2), M. Zambon (a2), N. Andrews (a1), M. Atkins (a2), S. Hall (a1), Y. K. Lau (a3) and B. J. Cohen (a4)...


In November and December 1992, an outbreak of parvovirus B19 infection occurred among patients and staff on an adult mixed surgical ward at a large hospital in London. Three patients and 15 staff members were serologically confirmed as acute cases. The attack rate among susceptible members of staff was 47%. In those infected, arthralgia (80%) and rash (67%) were the most common symptoms. Of six susceptible in-patients on the ward, three became infected. One of the in-patients who had carcinoma of the mouth was viraemic for more than 10 days with marrow suppression resulting in the postponement of chemotherapy until intravenous immunoglobulin was given and he was no longer viraemic. Control measures taken included closure of the ward to new admissions, transfer of only immune staff to the ward, and restriction of the ward nursing staff to working only on that ward. Although no specific exposure was conclusively identified as a risk factor, there was a suggestion of an increased risk of acquiring parvovirus B19 infection among those staff who did not adopt strict hand washing procedures after each physical contact with a patient (RR = 2·33; P = 0·07). Knowledge of parvovirus B19 among interviewed health care workers was poor: only 42% reported knowing about parvovirus B19 and only 38% could name a patient category at risk of a severe outcome following infection. This is the first report of a nosocomial outbreak affecting an adult ward and of possible transmission of parvovirus B19 infection from staff to in-patients. Hospital control of infection teams should include parvovirus B19 in their outbreak containment plans.

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Corresponding author

* Author for correspondence: Dr C. Seng, Brent and Harrow Health Agency, Grace House, Bessborough Road, Harrow HA1 3EX.


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