Fifth Disease – Pictures, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Fifth disease is a common, contagious, childhood ailment that is identified by a distinctive facial rash. It is also called as slapped-cheek diseaseand is caused by parvovirus infection.Fifth disease got its name as it was one of the common five diseases that affected children and occurred along with a rash.

Parvovirus infection is mild in nature; as such it needs only simple treatment. In certain cases, the parvovirus infection may turnserious for adults, particularly for pregnant women, as it can cause health problems inthe fetus; and for people suffering from anemia, or in people with ineffective immune system.

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Symptoms of fifth disease

Most instances of fifth disease do show any signs. However, when the symptoms do come up, they differ widely depending on the age of the patient.

The following are the some of the early symptoms of parvovirus infection, seen in children:

  • Mild fever
  • Sore throat
  • Itching
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach disorder

Conspicuous facial rash:After several days from the appearance of the early signs, a conspicuous bright red rash appears on both cheeks offace. When it spreads to other parts of the body, the rash appears pink, lacy, and has a raised appearance. Normally, the rashes appear during the last leg of fifth disease and may be mistaken for some other viral illnesses or other related rashes. For three weeks the rashes may come and go; they are clearly visible when the affected child is exposed to severe temperatures, or when the child spends more time in sun.

Fifth disease/Parvovirus infection signs for adults: The signs of fifth disease in adults are rashes on joints like ankles, wrists, knees, and   hands, but not on the face.

Normally, the parvovirus infection does not need medical aid, but under the following conditions patients need to consult a doctor:

  • If the patient is pregnant
  • If the patient has a compromised immune system
  • If the patient is suffering from sickle cell anemia

Fifth disease and anemia: Occurrence of fifth disease in people suffering from anemia may complicate the problem of already existing shortage for red cells in blood, which carry oxygen for the body parts. Parvovirus infection in anemic patients may stop the production of red blood cells and aggravate the anemia crisis. Patients with sickle cell anemia may be at a greater risk. Fifth disease may cause the below listed health complications in anemic patients:

  • Pregnancy complications for an unborn infant:The parvovirus infection of a pregnant woman may affect the red cells of the fetus and cause severe anemia and which may result in miscarriage. The risk of miscarriage is the highest during the first half of the pregnancy period.
  • Multifarious complications in people with weaker immune system: The presence of fifth disease in persons with weaker immune system (such as those suffering from AIDs; patients under anti-rejection drugs after organ transplants; and patients under cancer treatment) may enhance the condition of anemia in these patients.

Causes of fifth disease

Fifth disease is caused by the human parvovirus B19.It is different from the parvovirus seen in pet animals, which does not infect humans and vice versa.

Generally, fifth disease is common in young children who are attending elementary school, and during the winter and spring seasons. But it also can infect anyone and in any season.

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Fifth disease is contagious during the week before the rash appears. It spreads through exposure to infected breath, or by physical contact. The disease stops being contagious after the appearance of the rash, and hence patients can be removed from isolation.

Treatment of fifth disease

Almost half of adult population tends to have immune system resistance to the parvovirus, mostly due to previous cases of fifth disease during childhood. A blood test can reveal whether or not people are immune to this particular viral infection.

  • Self-care treatment guidelines and home remedies are enough for a non-complicated parvovirus attack. Plenty of rest and lots of water intake will help to reduce the symptoms and render comfort.
  • Patients can take acetaminophen (Tylenol and others) to get relief from elevated body temperatures of more than 102 F (39 C). It is useful for minor aches and pains also. Avoid giving aspirin to children and teen agers. Even though the use of aspirin is permissible for the children above the age of 2, it should not be given to children recovering from chickenpox and to children with flu-like symptoms.Consumption of aspirin by children is linked to Reye’s syndrome and hence dangerous.
  • Frequent washing of hands may help in reducing the chances of infection. Immediately dispose of the used tissues and ensure to wash the hands after using them.
  • A patient suffering from severe anemia requires hospitalization and blood transfusion.
  • Patients with weak immune system need antibodies such as immune globulin injections for treating the fifth disease infection.

So far no vaccine is available to prevent fifth disease. One may acquire lifelong immunity against parvovirus infection, once he/she gets affected by this infection.

 Fifth Disease Pictures (Rash)

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