Fifth disease, also known as Erythema Infectiosum, is a contagious viral infection that affects children of school age. The fifth disease is a rash that occurs on the cheeks and causes a bright red rash. Because of the rash, it’s been dubbed “slapped cheek disease”. A virus known as parvovirus B19 causes this disease. This virus is very contagious, and infected individuals can pass it on to others by coughing or sneezing.
The name “Fifth Disease” came from the fact that it was the fifth viral rash disease that affected youngsters. Other viral rash disorders include:
The fifth disease is usually not a significant medical ailment that responds well to therapy.
What are the causes of the fifth disease?
It is caused by parvovirus B19. This airborne virus spreads primarily through saliva and respiratory secretions among young children.
Because of earlier childhood exposure, many adults have antibodies that protect them from developing the fifth disease. But if an adult contracts the fifth disease, the symptoms can be severe.
If women contract the fifth disease while pregnancy, their unborn child health risks. The infection is also more severe for individuals with some kind of anemia or who have a compromised immune system.
The fifth disease is a frequent, minor sickness that seldom has long-term repercussions in children with healthy immune systems.
What are the symptoms of the fifth disease?
About 20% of patients exhibit no symptoms. They are still contagious and can spread the disease to others. Symptoms are common at the start of the disease, and the virus is most contagious at this time. The following are some of the most common symptoms of the fifth disease:
After a few days, a raised, slap-like rash on the face or body may appear. The patient is no longer contagious after the rash appears. The rash may be itchy. In five to ten days, it should be gone. In certain situations, a second rash may appear after the “slapped cheek” rash has faded. This time, the rash may be found on:
- The trunk (chest and back)
Joint discomfort and swelling affect approximately 10% of children with fifth disease.
Although the fifth disease is more common in youngsters, it can also affect adults. Adults frequently experience flu-like symptoms without a rash. In addition to those symptoms, about 80% of individuals experience joint discomfort in their wrists, hands, and knees.
Fifth disease in adults
While the fifth disease is most commonly associated with children, it can also afflict adults. Joint discomfort and oedema are common symptoms.
A slight rash may appear; however, this isn’t usually the case. Adults with fifth disease may show no signs or symptoms at all.
OTC (over-the-counter) pain relievers are commonly used to treat these symptoms. Swelling and joint pain can be reduced with the use of these drugs. Usually, symptoms go away on their own after a week or two, although they can continue for months.
Fifth disease during pregnancy
The majority of people who come into touch with the virus that causes the fifth disease, and those who develop an infection, will have no problems. As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about half of pregnant women are resistant to the virus, so even if they are exposed, they will not develop the fifth disease.
Exposure could cause mild disease in those who aren’t immune. For such patients, the signs and symptoms involve:
- swollen joints
- slight rash
Sometimes, parvovirus infection during pregnancy affects red blood cells in the fetus. Although uncommon, this can cause severe anaemia that may lead to stillbirth or miscarriage. The fetal risk seems to be highest during the first half of the pregnancy.
A fetus whose mother carries parvovirus B19 can develop severe anemia in rare situations. This disorder makes it difficult for the growing fetus to produce red blood cells (RBCs), resulting in miscarriage.
It is uncommon to have a miscarriage due to the fifth disease. Only about 5% of pregnant women will lose their fetus. Miscarriage is a common possibility in the first trimester of pregnancy which the fifth disease can cause.
Fifth disease in babies
The virus can be spread to a developing fetus by mothers who have been diagnosed with the fifth disease. If this occurs, the newborn may suffer from severe anaemia. This is, however, a rare occurrence.
Anaemia induced by the fifth disease may necessitate a blood transfusion in babies. The disease can also result in stillbirth or miscarriage.
There is no cure for a baby who catches the fifth disease while still in the womb. Throughout the pregnancy, the mother and fetus will be monitored by the doctor. Following delivery, the baby will almost certainly require more medical attention, including possibly a blood transfusion.
How is the fifth disease transmitted to other people?
When a person with the fifth disease coughs or sneezes, respiratory droplets enter the air and spread the sickness. Adults who work with young children, such as child care providers, teachers, and health care workers, are the most vulnerable.
Children are no longer contagious by the time the rash starts and can return to school or daycare. The incubation period (the time between infection and the appearance of signs or symptoms of sickness) is typically 4-14 days, although it can last up to 21 days.
What are the complications of fifth disease?
For certain people, the fifth disease can lead to chronic anemia. The patient may need a blood transfusion, which will need a hospital stay. If any woman catches the infection during the first half of her pregnancy, she has a 10% chance of miscarriage and a tiny chance of the baby developing severe anemia.
If the patient has a weaker immune system, they are more prone to get significant problems from any disease. Leukemia and other malignancies, HIV infection, and organ transplants are among conditions that might decrease the immune system.
How can a physician diagnose the fifth disease?
The diagnosis of the fifth disease is usually done based on the symptoms. The “slapped cheek” rash is a prominent marker of this ailment, and when it’s combined with the other key flu-like symptoms, the doctor can typically identify this disease without any more testing in the clinic. The doctor may perform blood tests to confirm the fifth disease in some circumstances.
What are the treatment options available of the fifth disease?
If the patient experiences pain in the joints, a headache, or a fever, they may be prescribed over-the-counter (OTC) acetaminophen (Tylenol) to ease these symptoms. They will have to wait for the body to battle the infection. It normally takes one to three weeks for this to happen.
The purpose of treatment for the fifth disease is to alleviate symptoms and make the patient or child more comfortable. The virus that causes the fifth disease has no specific treatment. The doctor may advise to:
- Acetaminophen is used to treat fevers and muscle aches and pains
- Antihistamines help relieve itching caused by the rash
Drink plenty of water and get plenty of rest to speed up the process. Once the red rash forms, children can usually return to school because they are no longer contagious.
Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) can be given in very uncommon cases. This type of treatment is normally reserved for life-threatening cases.
How can you prevent the onset of the fifth disease?
There is no vaccination available to prevent the fifth disease. Because the virus is easily transmitted through nose and mouth droplets, proper hygiene is the most effective strategy to avoid infection. Take the following precautions to lower the family’s risk of infection:
- Hands should be washed regularly and thoroughly
- Coughing and sneezing into the crook of your elbow is a common occurrence
- Keeping a safe distance from an infectious person
Even though the distinctive red rash of the fifth disease can be frightening, it’s usually only a brief condition that goes away with little therapy. It’s vital to note, however, that the fifth sickness is extremely contagious. If any family member is experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, contact the family healthcare professional. To prevent the illness from spreading, the patient may need to isolate the family member for a short period. Unfortunately, it can spread before any symptoms are noticed and can be transmitted to others without knowledge. When any family member is diagnosed, discuss the timing of symptoms with the clinician. When the patient has been diagnosed with this condition, they need to take some time to heal before returning to daycare, school, or other public areas.