Clinical medicine (London, England) 16(2) 129-34 doi 10.7861/clinmedicine.16-2-129
Acute-onset arthritis is a common clinical problem facing both the general clinician and the rheumatologist. A viral aetiology is though to be responsible for approximately 1% of all cases of acute arthritis with a wide range of causal agents recognised. The epidemiology of acute viral arthritis continues to evolve, with some aetiologies, such as rubella, becoming less common due to vaccination, while some vector-borne viruses have become more widespread. A travel history therefore forms an important part of the assessment of patients presenting with an acute arthritis. Worldwide, parvovirus B19, hepatitis B and C, HIV and the alphaviruses are among the most important causes of virally mediated arthritis. Targeted serological testing may be of value in establishing a diagnosis, and clinicians must also be aware that low-titre autoantibodies, such as rheumatoid factor and antinuclear antibody, can occur in the context of acute viral arthritis. A careful consideration of epidemiological, clinical and serological features is therefore required to guide clinicians in making diagnostic and treatment decisions. While most virally mediated arthritides are self-limiting some warrant the initiation of specific antiviral therapy.