- by Dr Varsha Saxena
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- Apr 04 2018
Fifth Disease: Causes and Symptoms
It is also called erythema infectiosum and “Slapped cheek disease”, is a mildly to moderately contagious viral infection common among school-age children, particularly in the winter and spring. It begins with the distinctive, sudden appearance of bright red cheeks that look as though the child has been slapped. The disease is rare in infants and adults.
It is named as the fifth disease many years ago when it was the fifth on a list of the six recognised childhood rash, forming illness. It is spread by respiratory droplets that enter the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through blood.
It is caused by parvovirus B19 and is spread by respiratory secretions from an infected person. By the time rash appears, children are no longer contagious and may attend school or day-care. The incubation period is usually four to 14 days but can be as long as 21 days.
- Mild fever
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Abdominal pain
After about a week, with all these symptoms, the bright red rash can be seen on the cheeks. This rash may last for five to seven days and occasionally comes and goes for up to three weeks. The other symptoms are usually gone by the time the rash appears.
People with rash are usually not contagious. It does not involve rashes on palms and soles.
Around 5% of children and about half of adults experience joint aches and pains. Arthritis or arthropathy is more common in females than males, is usually temporary, last days to weeks, and may become a long-term problem for months.
It is diagnosed by taking a medical history and performing a physical exam. A blood test is done to detect antibodies to parvovirus B19.
Treatment is not necessary, if your joints hurt or you have a headache or fever, you may be advised to take medicine to relieve these symptoms. Otherwise, you will need to wait for your body to fight off the virus, which usually takes one to three weeks.
The best way to prevent the spread of the disease is by proper hand washing, by covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or a cough, and by staying home when you become sick.
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