Fifth Disease (Parvovirus B19)

What is fifth disease?

Fifth disease is a mild rash illness, usually seen in children. It is caused by a viruscalled parvovirus B19.

Who gets fifth disease?

Anyone, including adults, can get fifth disease if they have never had it before.Fifth disease occurs most often in elementary school aged children. Approxi-mately half of the adult population in the United States has had the disease, oftenwithout knowing they had it.

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How is fifth disease spread?

Fifth disease is spread by airborne droplets when infected people cough or sneeze.It can also be spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus.

What are the symptoms of fifth disease?

Early symptoms in children can include a low grade fever and feeling tired andachy. Seven to 10 days later, a red rash generally appears on the cheeks, giving a“slapped face” appearance. The rash may spread to the rest of the body and tendsto come and go. The rash may look “lacy” and it may itch. Sunlight can make therash worse. Many people with fifth disease have very mild symptoms or nosymptoms at all. Adults with fifth disease may develop temporary arthritis symp-toms following the illness.

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After exposure, how long does it take to get fifth disease?

It usually takes from 4 to 14 days for people who have never had fifth disease todevelop symptoms once they are exposed. It can take as long as 21 days.

How long is a person with fifth disease contagious?

A person is contagious before the rash starts. Once the rash appears, the virus isunlikely to be spread to others. Some individuals with rare medical conditionsmay be contagious longer. Check with your health care provider if you havespecific concerns.

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When are fifth disease outbreaks most likely to occur?

Outbreaks of fifth disease occur most commonly in the winter and spring. Cases occur every year,with larger outbreaks every 5 to 7 years.

What health problems are associated with fifth disease?

When a pregnant woman becomes infected, usually no problems develop. In rare cases, the virusmay infect the developing baby and increase the risk of miscarriage. Fifth disease is not known tocause birth defects. A pregnant woman exposed to someone with fifth disease should contact herhealth care provider for medical advice. People with blood disorders, such as sickle cell anemia,and people with suppressed immune systems, are advised to contact their health care providers.

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Is there any treatment for fifth disease?

There is no specific treatment currently recommended for fifth disease. Check with your health careprovider for advice on over-the-counter medications for symptom relief, if needed.

Are there any tests for diagnosing fifth disease?

Generally fifth disease is diagnosed by the typical rash. In special situations, such as exposureduring pregnancy, blood testing can be done to determine if an individual is protected or susceptibleto fifth disease.

What can be done to help stop the spread of fifth disease?

Using good hygiene measures (tissues to cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing andfrequent handwashing) helps to reduce the transmission of fifth disease.

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