Fifth Disease

Fifth disease, otherwise known as "slapped cheek syndrome" is a viral infection that mainly affects children between the ages of 5 and 15 years although it has been known to affect adults as well. It's not a fatal disease and can usually be treated with several days bed rest and some pain killers. There are, however, complications that may result from this disease if you or your child suffers from blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia or if you have a low immunity. Parvovirus B19, the virus that causes fifth disease, slows down your body's production of red blood cells resulting in anemia.

This symptom largely goes un-noticed by the majority of children affected with Fifth disease but for a child with an already low red blood cell count it can cause their production levels to drop dangerously low and this affects the supply of oxygen around the body.

Most cases of Parvovirus go largely undetected and display little to no symptoms. However, if you notice a rash on yourself or on your child you should always seek medical advice.

It's generally thought that contracting the Parvovirus B19 will lead to immunity for life once you have recovered. It's at least true that the affected person becomes immune to the virus for a long period of time.  It is estimated that around 50% of adults are currently immune to the virus.

Fifth disease is a contagious infection and is transmitted by bodily fluids such as saliva or nasal mucus. This is easily spread while the infected child has the primary cold or flu like symptoms and can be transferred from sharing drinking utensils and other household items.  This means the household of an infected person has a 50% chance of contracting the virus themselves. If someone has the virus in your home, you should actively encourage regular hand washing, give the sufferer plenty of bed rest and discourage sharing food and drink utensils. This should help ensure you minimize the chances of other family members contracting the virus.

Where a rash is not present during infection by the Parvovirus B19, your doctor may wish to take blood samples to test for the antibodies your body develops to fight the virus.

In usual cases, the treatment of fifth disease is not to treat the disease itself but to treat the symptoms. The body can normally tackle the virus itself within 7 to 14 days but you can take pain killers and drink plenty of fluids to help alleviate the flu-like symptoms in the meantime. You may wish to take anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen if you are suffering from joint pains. It is recommended that young children or teenagers do not take aspirin during this illness unless under the supervision and strict guidelines of a specialist.

Once the rash develops on a child they can usually attend to their daily activities as normal such as childcare or school as the virus is not generally contagious once the rash has developed.