Feature Article

Viral exanthems: unravelling viral rashes

Feature Article

Viral exanthems: unravelling viral rashes

BELINDA LAI, KEVIN PHAN, Stephen Shumack, ELIZABETH DAWES-HIGGS

Figures

© Dessie/stock.adobe.com model used for illustrative purposes only
© Dessie/stock.adobe.com model used for illustrative purposes only

Abstract

Common causes of viral exanthems in Australia include herpesviruses, enteroviruses, parvovirus B19, varicella, measles and rubella viruses and mosquito-borne alphaviruses. The cause can often be diagnosed clinically from the rash distribution and morphology, confirmed only when necessary with serological or PCR tests. Most viral exanthems are self-limiting, requiring supportive care alone.

Key Points

  • Viral exanthems are common, and detailed history taking and examination of the morphology and distribution of the rash are essential to determine the cause.
  • Viral exanthems such as varicella and rubella can cause significant complications in pregnant women, so early diagnosis and treatment are key.
  • Viral exanthems can be diagnosed clinically, and clinicians should think critically before ordering molecular and serological testing.
  • Certain viral exanthems, such as Ross River virus disease, must be notified to the appropriate public health unit as per state or territory guidelines.
  • High vaccination rates are crucial to reduce the incidence and morbidity of viral exanthems such as measles.