Fifth disease is a viral illness that results in a viral exanthem. Exanthem is another name for a rash or skin eruption. It is spread from one child to another through direct contact with discharge from the nose and throat. It can also be spread through contact with infected blood. It is moderately contagious and usually does not include a high fever, as seen with some other viral skin conditions.
Fifth disease is caused by the human parvovirus. It is most prevalent in the winter and spring and is usually seen in school age children. Outbreaks of the disease frequently occur in school settings.
It may take between four to 14 days for the child to develop symptoms of fifth disease after being exposed to the disease. Children are most contagious before the rash occurs. Therefore, children may be contagious before they even know they have the disease. Also, about 20 percent of people with the virus do not have symptoms but can still spread the disease. The following are the most common symptoms of fifth disease. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
The most serious complication of the disease affects pregnant women. The virus that causes fifth disease can cause fetal death. The symptoms of fifth disease may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.
Fifth disease is usually diagnosed based on a complete medical history and physical examination of your child. The rash of fifth disease is unique, and usually allows for a diagnosis simply on physical examination. In addition, your child's physician may order blood tests to aid in the diagnosis.
Specific treatment for fifth disease will be determined by your child's physician based on:
The goal of treatment for fifth disease is to help decrease the severity of the symptoms. Since it is a viral infection, there is no cure for fifth disease. Treatment may include: