A common childhood ailment, fifth disease is an illness caused by the parvovirus. In most cases, the infection is mild and requires little treatment. In certain instances, however, it could be dangerous. To learn how to treat and avoid this highly contagious illness, consider the following:
How Is it Spread?
The parvovirus is spread when an infected person transmits respiratory droplets either by sneezing or coughing. It can also spread through blood, although this is particularly rare. The virus can incubate for 14 to 21 days, during which no symptoms appear.
What Are the Symptoms?
Most people show no signs of fifth disease. On the other hand, some children will experience:
- Upset stomach
- Runny nose
A few days after the onset of symptoms, children can develop a bright red rash on the face. In certain cases, this rash can extend to the trunk, arms, buttocks and thighs. Usually the rash occurs toward the end of the illness and could come and go for up to three weeks. Once a rash appears, children are no longer contagious and do not need to be quarantined.
In adults, parvovirus can cause joint soreness in the wrists, hands, ankles and knees.
Prevention and Treatment
Unfortunately, human parvovirus infections are contagious a week before symptoms occur. This makes them highly common among elementary school-age kids during the spring and winter months. While there’s no way to reduce the risk to zero, you can minimize the spread of virus particles by encouraging children to wash their hands frequently and cover their mouths when they cough.
There is no cure for fifth disease; however, pain relievers and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can relieve symptoms.
When to See a Doctor
In the vast majority of cases, people with fifth disease do not need medical attention. That said, because it has the potential to cause miscarriage, pregnant women are encouraged to seek treatment if they show any signs of having the virus. Likewise, certain people may be at a higher risk of complications, including people with impaired immune systems or sickle cell anemia.