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Fifth Disease

Fifth disease, also known as Erythema Infectiosum or Slapped Cheek Syndrome, is a viral infection caused by parvovirus B19 that leads to a rash on the cheeks, arms, and legs. It is known as fifth disease as Parvovirus infection is one of the five common illnesses that develop with red rash during childhood. It is most common in children between the age group of 5 and 15 and usually occurs in winter and spring. Fifth disease usually is a mild illness. It is contagious and spreads through direct contact with fluids or mucus from the nose or mouth of an infected person. Though rare, adults can also become infected with virus and develop fifth disease. However, the symptoms and the severity of the disease vary between children and adults.


The symptoms of fifth disease almost resemble flu with mild fever, headache, cough runny nose and muscle ache. Stomach related symptoms like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea may also develop in due course. These symptoms subside after 3 or 4 days and only then the red rash will start to surface, initially on the cheek and later spreading to arms, chest and even legs. The rash has a lace like pattern at the time of fading. At this stage, the disease is no longer contagious and the child can be allowed to attend school or day care. In adults, fifth disease also gives rise to joint pains, but this is very uncommon in children. The incubation period for fifth disease ranges from 4 to 28 days and the rash usually lasts for 1 to 3 weeks. Normally fifth disease is diagnosed after noticing the rash on the cheek.


Fifth disease is rarely threatening and clears off on its own without any aggressive treatment. Doctors generally prescribe acetaminophen or ibuprofen to treat fever and other flu like symptoms. Adequate rest, plenty of fluids and avoiding exposure to sun and heat helps immensely in relieving the symptoms. 


Fifth disease does not cause any complications in normal cases. However patients with certain underlying conditions such as autoimmune disorders, sickle-cell anemia, Aplastic anemia, Spherocytosis and low count of red blood cells need to be highly watchful of the disease as it can cause serious complications for them. They should seek immediate medical attention in case of suspicion to avoid further damage.

Fifth disease can also be dangerous to pregnant woman. In rare cases, the disease can spread from a pregnant woman to her unborn child. In such a condition, the baby will develop severe anemia with low red blood count leading to heart failure. Hence it is very important for pregnant women to avoid exposure to the disease and maintain hygiene throughout the term.


There is no vaccine to prevent the infection and also no medication is available to treat it. It is best to prevent the disease by following certain steps like:

  • Frequent washing of hands with medicated soap.
  • Disposing used tissues or hand towels carefully.
  • Covering your mouth when sneezing, coughing, etc.
  • Avoiding contact with those who have Fifth disease.

Tags: #Fifth Disease
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Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: July 22, 2024