5th disease is caused by the human parvovirus B19 and should not be mistaken with the animal parvovirus, which often affects newborn or young puppies. Parvovirus was at one time thought to have been a harmless virus, but many medical experts have slowly changed their opinion, because scientific studies now show that it may potentially lead to some serious complications.
Fifth Disease: Who is at Risk?
Everyone is at risk of being exposed and infected to the parvovirus, but school children and adolescents between the ages of 5-15 are at a higher risk. Animal veterinarians once thought that the animal parvovirus could be spread from animals to humans, but it has now been determined that this is not possible. Human parvovirus will not spread to animals either, so pet owners should not be concerned about their children, if they have a puppy that becomes infected with the animal parvovirus B19.
Individuals that are suffering from chronic illness such as blood diseases (anemia, sickle-cell), leukemia, and AIDS are at a higher risk of serious complications, since the parvovirus B19 is capable of altering the production or oxygen enriched red blood cells. This can cause a dramatic decrease in the oxygen enriched RBCs, which will decrease the oxygen that is needed for vitality.
Only 5% of pregnant females have been reported to having complications with fifth disease. Within this 5% many females have suffered spontaneous abortions or miscarriages and given birth to newborns that are later diagnosed with hemolytic anemia.
5ths Disease Mode of Transmission
Fifth disease is transmitted through droplet transmission. Droplets consist of oral (saliva), respiratory, and nasal (mucus) secretions. Droplets are heavier than pathogens that are transmitted through the air, so they can only travel up to 3 feet, which basically means that the individual will need to be within this range, in order to be exposed to the parvovirus B19 disease.
Contagious Period: Fifth Disease
The contagious period has been determined to be within the incubation period, which may last from 4-28 days, but the contagious period will begin on the 7th day at the end of the incubation period and last until onset of symptoms. This is the end of the incubation period, as well. The average incubation period is usually around 14 days.
It is crucial to note that individuals that have been diagnosed with an immunosuppressed disorder and become infected with parvovirus B19 may potentially be contagious for a much longer period of time.
Fifth Disease Symptoms
Most parents will not realize that their child is infected with the parvovirus, until a facial rash appears, which looks like the child was slapped harshly on the cheek. While a low-grade fever and fatigue may potentially appear, during the first week, it has been reported that some children may remain asymptomatic (no symptoms).
- Deep-red facial rash may appear on the cheeks on the 3rd week
- A lacy-like, itchy rash may extend down the body
- The rash will disappear and reappear
- Flu-like symptoms (nasal congestion or runny nose)
- The rash may potentially last for up to 1-3 weeks, before it disappears to never return
Every child is different, so these symptoms may vary among them. Other symptoms that may appear, but are less common includes:
- Loose stools
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Sore throat
- Blood shot eyes
- Joint pain (reported more often in adolescents and adults)
Once you become aware that your child has been infected with the parvovirus B19, it is crucial to keep them out of direct sunlight and heat, as these environmental factors may trigger or worsen the symptoms.
5th Disease Prevention
While there is no vaccine for fifth disease, it is crucial to teach your child good hand washing techniques. Have them to recite the alphabet, while they are washing their hands. Anti-bacterial soaps should also be used. If you are a caretaker, you should always wear a face mask, if you are within the 3 feet of the droplet range.
It has been reported that over 50% of individuals are immune to the parvovirus B19, either because they have been infected with the virus at some point in their life or are just naturally immune.
Treatment for Fifth Disease
There is no current treatment for fifth disease, since antibiotics are ineffective in combating viruses. Always speak with your pediatrician, before administering any OTC analgesic (Tylenol, Motrin) or antihistamine to your child.