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Fifth disease is a mild viral infection that can affect children and adults

Updated: Saturday, Jun 19,2010, 11:11:49 AM
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Fifth disease is a mild viral infection that can affect children and adults, although it is more common in children. It is caused by parvovirus B19 and is also known as "Slapped Cheek Syndrome." The most striking feature is a bright red rash on the face that looks like slapped cheeks followed by a lacy pink rash all over the body. The illness is mild and often there are no symptoms at all. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report some children may develop flu-like symptoms 4 to 21 days after contact with the virus.

When symptoms are present, they can include:

    * mild fever
    * headache
    * stuffy or runny nose
    * fatigue
    * joint pain in adults

The rash is sometimes itchy and can last up to three weeks. CDC recommends no specific treatment for fifth disease. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen is usually all that is needed to treat symptoms of fever or pain. fifth disease is contagious only in the early part of the illness before the rash appears. when a child develops the rash he or she is no longer infectious and can return to school or childcare.

Despite being a parvovirus, fifth disease affects only humans and cannot be caught from pets. The infection spreads like the common cold, through coughs and sneezes, or direct contact like the sharing of cups or utensils. CDC recommends frequent hand washing as an effective method to control the spread of the disease.

For most people, fifth disease is usually considered a mild illness. However, CDC reports it can cause serious health problems for pregnant women, for people with chronic blood disorders such as sickle cell disease or leukemia, and for those with immune system problems. CDC advises these people should consult a doctor if they are exposed to the virus.

Tags: disease Fifth

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