summary Erythrovirus (parvovirus) B19 (B19) is a common human pathogen. It is a non-enveloped single-strand DNA virus packaging its genome in small tight capsids consisting of viral VP1 and VP2 proteins. It is now accepted that B19 is a relatively quickly evolving virus having diverged in several genetic variants recently identified. The main route of B19 transmission is respiratory, with a majority of infections occurring during childhood and manifesting as erythema infectiousum. B19 can also be transmitted vertically and via blood transfusion and organ transplantation. The majority of adult populations show immunological evidence of previous exposure to B19. Although the immune response is able to clear infection and provide life-long protection against B19, recent data suggest that in some, if not the majority, of individuals the acute phase of infection is followed by viral persistence in the blood or other tissues regardless of the host’s immunocompetence. Transmission of B19 by blood and blood products and its resistance to common viral inactivation methods raises several blood safety questions, still unanswered. The diversity of B19 strains and the ability of the virus to persist in the presence of specific antibodies raise the issue of transmissibility by transfusion not so much to immunocompetent recipients but rather to the large proportion of recipients in whom there is some degree of immunodeficiency. The ability of the virus to reactivate in immunodeficient recipients may create difficulties in differentiating between transfusion transmission and reactivation.