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Fifth disease, which is especially common in kids between the ages of 5 and
15, usually produces a distinctive red rash on the face that makes a child
appear to have a "slapped cheek." The rash then spreads to the trunk, arms,
About Fifth Disease
Fifth disease is actually just a viral illness that most kids recover from
quickly and without complications.
Fifth disease (also called erythema infectiosum) is caused by parvovirus B19.
A human virus, parvovirus B19 is not the same parvovirus that veterinarians
may be concerned about in pets, especially dogs, and it cannot be passed from
humans to animals or vice versa.
Studies show that although 40% to 60% of adults worldwide have laboratory
evidence of a past parvovirus B19 infection, most can't remember having had
symptoms of fifth disease. This leads medical experts to believe that most
people with a B19 infection have either very mild symptoms or no symptoms at
Fifth disease occurs everywhere in the world. Outbreaks tend to happen in the
late winter and early spring, but there can be sporadic cases of the disease
throughout the year.
Signs and Symptoms
Fifth disease begins with a low-grade fever, headache, and mild cold-like
symptoms (a stuffy or runny nose). These symptoms pass, and the illness seems
to be gone until a rash appears a few days later.
The bright red rash usually begins on the face. Several days later, the rash
spreads and red blotches (usually lighter in color) extend down to the trunk,
arms, and legs. The rash usually spares the palms of the hands and soles of
the feet. As the centers of the blotches begin to clear, the rash takes on a
lacy net-like appearance. Kids younger than 10 years old are most likely to
get the rash.
Older kids and adults sometimes complain that the rash itches, but most kids
with a rash do not look sick and no longer have fever. Certain stimuli
(including sunlight, heat, exercise, and stress) may reactivate the rash
until it completely fades. It may take 1 to 3 weeks for the rash to
completely clear, and during that time it may seem to worsen until it finally
fades away entirely.
Other symptoms that sometimes occur with fifth disease include swollen
glands, red eyes, sore throat, diarrhea, and rarely, rashes that look like
blisters or bruises.
In some cases, especially in adults and older teens, an attack of fifth