Why named Fifth Disease

Fifth disease has many names including its Latin name Erythema Infectiosum which literally translates as "Infectious Redness". This can be a little confusing as it refers to the rash caused by the Parvovirus B19, and implies that the virus is contagious at the same time.

Fifth disease is contagious, and a rash is usually a prominent symptom of this disease but unlike the name suggests they are not features that occur simultaneously. Fifth disease is only contagious prior to the rash appearing contrary to popular belief.


There are many other names for this disease such as:         

Slapped Cheek Syndrome

Slap Cheek

Slapped Face

Apple Sickness

Sticker's Disease


The reason this particular disease is named fifth disease, is because it was one of the five original rash producing diseases in children. The other four were measles, chicken pox, rubella, and scarlet fever. Scarlet fever is the only one of these that is a bacterial disease, the rest being viral. Nowadays there is a sixth disease also known as roseola but this disease is relatively new and was not part of the historical classification of exanthems.

While vaccinations now exist for measles, rubella and chickenpox, there are still no vaccinations for fifth disease or scarlet fever. Unlike scarlet fever however, fifth disease does not have a cure and cannot be treated with antibiotics.

Named Fifth Disease

This does not mean you should panic though, fifth disease is normally quite harmless and people, more often than not, do not even realize they have had it. Fifth disease will not always produce the symptom of a tell tale bright red rash on the sufferer. A little ironic that its Latin name means infectious redness and the disease is not only, not infectious when the rash is present but also does not always produce a rash.

The name apple sickness is the Japanese version of the name fifth disease. It was so named because the rash is similar to the shine of red on an apple, which is quite a romantic name for a viral infection. Our own familiar name for Fifth disease is quite harsh, mainly being "Slapped Face Syndrome" or another such similar arrangement of those words. This is one of the reasons why parents become confused at hearing the name "Fifth disease" as it's less commonly used than Slapped Face. Even so our greater understanding of this disease is limited and the terminology 'disease' often puts our worst fears into our heads.

The main point to take away with you is not why this disease is named Fifth disease, but that no matter what name it has out of the many shown above, it is not a disease to worry about and around 20% of people contract this disease and have never displayed any symptoms at all.  If someone has Fifth disease, it's just like getting the flu. You should go to your doctor to get checked out just to make sure it isn't something else, and then make sure you get plenty of rest.