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Human Parvovirus - Fifth Disease

Published : 2013-06-21
Author : Disabled World

Synopsis: Human parvovirus or Fifth Disease is a mild rash illness caused by parvovirus B19 the disease is also referred to as erythema infectiosum.

Main Digest

Human parvovirus or, 'Fifth Disease,' is a mild rash illness caused by parvovirus B19. The disease is also referred to as, 'erythema infectiosum.' Children experience this disease more often than adults do. A person often gets sick within 4-14 days after becoming infected with parvovirus B19. Approximately 20% of children and adults who become infected with this virus will not experience any symptoms at all.

The first symptoms of fifth disease are usually nonspecific and rather mild. They include a fever, runny nose, and a headache. Fifth disease received its name because it was fifth on a list of historical classifications of common skin rash illnesses in children.

After a number of days, a red rash may appear on a person's face, something that is commonly referred to as, 'slapped cheek rash.' The rash is the most recognized feature of fifth disease and is more common in children than it is in adults. Some people might experience a second rash a few days after that on their back, chest, buttocks, legs, or arms. The rash may be itchy, particularly on the soles of a person's feet. The rash can vary in intensity and might come and go for a number of weeks. It usually goes away in 7-10 days, although it may last for several weeks. As the rash begins to disappear it might look somewhat lacy.

People who experience fifth disease may also develop swelling and pain in their joints referred to as, 'polyarthropathy syndrome.' The swelling and pain is more common in adults, particularly women, than it is in children. Some adults with fifth disease may only experience painful joints, usually in their feet, knees, or hands - yet no other symptoms. The pain in their joints usually lasts 1-3 weeks, although it may last for months or even longer. The pain usually goes away without any long-term issues.

Transmission of Fifth Disease

People with fifth disease are most contagious before they experience joint swelling and pain or a rash. Parvovirus B19 spreads through a person's respiratory secretions such as sputum, saliva, or nasal mucus when they sneeze or cough. They are most contagious when it seems as if they simply have a common cold and before they experience joint swelling and pain or a rash. After a person gets the rash they are most likely not contagious. It is usually safe for a person to return to work, or for a child to return to school or a child care center, if they already have the rash associated with fifth disease.

The contagious period for fifth disease is different from a number of other rash illnesses. For example; people who have measles may spread the measles virus when they have the rash. People with fifth disease who have weakened immune systems might be contagious for longer periods of time. Fifth disease may also be spread through blood or blood products. A woman who is pregnant and is infected may pass the virus to her baby.

Diagnosing Fifth Disease

Healthcare professionals can many times diagnose fifth disease simply by seeing the, 'slapped cheek,' rash on a person's face. A blood test may also be performed to determine if a person is susceptible or immune to parvovirus B19, or if they were recently infected. After a person recovers from fifth disease they develop immunity that usually protects them from parvovirus B19 infection in the future.

Preventing Fifth Disease

Some different actions on your part can help to reduce your chances of becoming infected with parvovirus B19. The same actions can help you to prevent infecting others if you are already infected. These actions include the following:

Once a person has the rash associated with fifth disease they are most likely not contagious. At this point it is usually safe for them to return to work, school, or a child care center. Women who are pregnant should be aware of the potential risks to their baby and talk about it with their doctor. Healthcare professionals and others should follow strict infection control practices in order to prevent parvovirus B19 from spreading to other people.

Treating Fifth Disease

Fifth disease is usually mild and will go away on its own. Children and adults who are otherwise healthy often times recover completely. Treatment usually involves relieving the symptoms a person experiences such as itching, fever, joint swelling and pain. People who experience complications from fifth disease should see their healthcare provider for additional medical treatment. There is no medicine or vaccine that can prevent parvovirus B19 infection unfortunately.

Fifth disease is usually mild in both children and adults who are otherwise healthy. Yet for some people, fifth disease causes serious health complications. People with weakened immune systems caused by cancer, leukemia, HIV infection, or transplants are at risk for serious complications. For these populations, fifth disease may cause chronic anemia that requires additional medical treatment.

References and Citations:


The human parvovirus infection is now considered a serious disease, and not just a mild rash experienced during childhood.

Human Parvovirus B19

Parvovirus B19 (B19) was discovered in 1974 and is the only member of the family Parvoviridae known to be pathogenic in humans.

Standford Human Parvovirus B19

In adults, symptoms of B19 infection can be even more severe, with joint inflammation similar to rheumatoid arthritis.

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Cite Page: Journal: Disabled World. Language: English (U.S.). Author: Disabled World. Electronic Publication Date: 2013-06-21. Title: Human Parvovirus - Fifth Disease, Source: <a href=>Human Parvovirus - Fifth Disease</a>. Retrieved 2021-06-22, from - Reference: DW#48-9778.