5th Disease

5th disease, also known as Erythema Infectiosum (infectious redness) or slapped cheek syndrome is one of the outward appearances of an infection by Parvovirus B19. Until 2005, this was the only form of Parvovirus that infected humans and is not to be confused with the Parvovirus that may infect a family pet. The name fifth disease comes from its traditional classification as one of the five rash-causing diseases of childhood, and although the illness itself is not limited only to children it is most common in those between 5 and 15 years of age.

Similar to other rash causing conditions, once a person has had the disease they become immune to it, and it is thought that around 50-60% of adults will come under this category. Another similarity is that once the rash appears, the patient is usually no longer contagious. For those who have not been infected before, the adults most at risk from the disease are those who work with children, such as teachers and healthcare professionals.

5th Disease Symptoms

Although the most common symptom of infection by Parvovirus B19 is the so-called "slapped cheek" rash (5th disease), there are other less common symptoms that may be experienced too such as headaches, fever, joint pain and sore throats. These symptoms usually appear before the rash itself, and the illness can seem to have passed until the rash appears a few days later. Joint pain in particular is more common in adults who become infected.

Some people who become infected may not even realize it, as it is not unheard of for there to be no symptoms at all. In these cases the only way it can be detected is to test for it. In adulthood, women are more prone to developing the symptoms than men, and they can last up to several months.

Treatment and Prevention

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine to protect against infection from the Parvovirus B19, nor is there an instant cure if you become infected. However, as has already been mentioned, if you have previously been infected then you can safely assume you are immune.

The only thing you can really do in case of infection is to get plenty of rest and use some form of pain medicine to control the symptoms. For children, an infant suspension type medicine is probably best, but to be sure you should always ask your doctor or pharmacist before giving medication to children. Also, since the infection is contagious, particularly before the rash, try to minimize the patient's contact with others. If the patient has a blood disorder or low immunity, you should be on the safe side and consult a doctor for advice.

Both 5th disease and the virus that causes it are relatively harmless conditions, and as such they are not really worth losing sleep over. The virus will clear up on its own given time, so if your children become infected the best thing to do is simply to pamper them until they are feeling better.