Fifth disease is linked to the human parvovirus or B19, which omits the animal parvovirus, because the virus cannot spread from animal to human. While many medical experts thought this skin condition was harmless, recent studies have shown that fifth disease may potentially lead to serious complications.
Who is at Risk of Fifth Disease
While anyone can get infected by human parvovirus B19, it most often affects school aged children and early adolescents between 5-15.
Many pet owners may be concerned about being exposed to animal parvovirus, but transmission of the virus from animals to humans or from humans to animals is not possible.
Individuals that have been diagnosed with any type of blood disease such as anemia, sickle-cell, or leukemia may suffer from serious complications, if they become infected with fifth disease.
Pregnant females may also be at a higher risk for complications, but only 5% of these women have been reported to have complications and those that do may fact spontaneous abortions (miscarriages).
Fifth Disease Mode of Transmission
The only mode of transmission for fifth disease is through droplets. Droplets may consist of respiratory, nasal, or oral secretions.
Droplets are heavy, so they can only suspend in air for a short period of time, so when an infected host sneezes, exhales, or coughs the droplets can travel no further than 3 foot. If an individual is within this range, they may become exposed to the infected secretions.
Fifth Disease Contagious Period
It has been determined that parvovirus hosts may be contagious during the incubation period, which begins at the time of exposure and lasts till the onset of symptoms may last anywhere from 4-28 days. The average incubation period is around 2 weeks.
The victim may be contagious for 7 days (during the incubation period), prior to the onset of symptoms, but immunosuppressed individuals may be contagious for a much longer period of time.
Symptoms of Fifth Disease
While a facial rash is more often the first sign of the infection, some children will present with a low-grade fever and fatigue, before they even realize that they have been infected with parvovirus.
- 3rd week a deep-red facial rash will appear on the cheeks
- The lacy-like rash may extend down the body
- Over this time the rash will disappear and reappear
- Flu-like symptoms (congested or runny nasal passages)
- The itchy rash may last from 1-3 weeks, before it completely disappears
Some children will remain asymptomatic (no symptoms) throughout, since every child is different, it may be difficult to determine, whether or not they were infected. Other rarer symptoms include:
- Blood shot eyes
- Swollen lymph glands
- Sore throat
- Joint pain (reported more often in older adolescents and adults)
It is crucial the keep the child away from extreme heat and sunlight, since these environmental stimuli may trigger or worsen symptoms.
Fifth Disease Prevention
The only prevention is hand washing and avoiding those that are infected with the virus. If you are a caretaker, be sure to wear a respirator or suitable face mask, while you are within the 3 feet droplet range. There is no current vaccine to help combat the human parvovirus.
Fifth Disease Treatment
There is currently no treatment for fifth disease, since antibiotics are ineffective in killing viruses. You should seek the advice of your pediatrician, before giving any over the counter analgesic (pain reliever) or antihistamines.