Viral exanthems: An update on laboratory testing of the adult patient

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Although classic viral exanthems of childhood are well described, they are rarely differentiated in adults. Laboratory techniques for viral identification have advanced without substantial literature to suggest how a dermatologist ought to conduct a cost-effective and diagnostic viral panel. Certain clinical features such as petechiae, vesicles, and dusky macular or morbilliform exanthems point strongly toward a viral exanthem. Differentiation of drug and viral causes of morbilliform eruptions has proven difficult. It is possible that with further diagnostic refinement that unnecessary and fruitless workups of an exanthem and unneeded discontinuation of drugs can be avoided. We review viral exanthems based on clinical features and discuss the available and optimal laboratory techniques to assist the dermatologist in a targeted workup.

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