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Fifth’s Disease

During the early spring months I have occasional reports of a student reporting symptoms of or being diagnosed with Fifth’s Disease.  This is usually followed by questions surrounding this disease.

Fifth’s Disease is a viral infection caused by Parvovirus 19 and is characterized by mild viral symptoms.  Symptoms are brief and mild consisting of fever, malaise, headache, slight runny nose and sore throat followed by a distinctive rash.  This can be such a mild disease that it is possible to have no symptoms at all and then develop the distinct rash.  The rash usually appears approximately 7 days after the other viral symptoms and by the time the rash appears the child is typically feeling better.  The rash is a very red rash on the face giving a “slapped cheek” appearance.  A symmetrical lacelike rash can also appear on the trunk.  The rash tends to fluctuate in intensity and can recur with changes in the environment such as changes in temperature or sunlight for up to several weeks.  I typically see a reoccurrence of the rash after children have been running around during recess when they become overheated.

Treatment involves supportive care.  Typically no other treatment is necessary.  This distinctive rash is harmless and causes no symptoms that need treatment.  Because the disease is contagious during the week prior to the presence of a rash, a child who has the rash is no longer contagious and does not need to stay home from school.  Parents should notify their child’s physician if the rash becomes itchy, their child develops a fever over 101 degrees, they feel their child is feeling worse, or they have concerns or problems.