What is Fifth Disease?
Fifth disease is a mild rash illness that usually affects children. Fifth disease is caused by a virus called parvovirus B 19 that lives in the nose and throat and can be spread from person to person.
The first stage of the illness consists of headache, body ache, sore throat, low-grade fever, and chills. These symptoms last about 2 to 3 days and are followed by a second stage, lasting about a week, during which the person has no symptoms at all. In children, the third stage involves a bright red rash on the cheeks which gives a "slapped cheek" appearance. This may be followed by a "lacy" rash on the trunk and arms and legs. The rash begins 17 to 18 days after exposure. The rash may appear on and off for several weeks with changes in temperature, sunlight, and emotional stress. Adults may not develop the third-stage rash but may experience joint pain, particularly in the hands and feet. The disease is usually mild and both children and adults recover without problems. However, in rare situations some people, especially those with blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia, may develop more severe symptoms.
Who gets it and how?
Children and adults can get parvovirus B 19. When an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks, the virus is sprayed into the air. These contaminated droplets can then be inhaled or touched by another person.
How is it treated?
There is no specific treatment for fifth disease. Health care providers may suggest treatment to relieve some symptoms. There is no vaccine to prevent fifth disease.
Must your child stay home?
Children with fifth disease do not have to stay home. By the time they are diagnosed with the rash, they are not longer contagious.
What should you do?
1. Watch for the symptoms of fifth disease and call your child"s physician if rash occurs.
2. Always be careful about hand washing, especially after touching discharge from the nose and throat and before eating or handling food.
3. Notify school in writing if your child has fifth disease.
4. If you are pregnant, tell your health care provider about your possible exposure.