The other day my daughter’s school sent home a notice about a case of Fifth disease at the school. I started thinking about worst case scenarios: a bunch of kids had the disease and my daughter would soon contract it and pass it along to her brother. We were going to be cooped up for weeks! Needless to say, I have an overactive imagination. My husband called the school and learned there had been one case (not in my daughter’s class) and the students hadn’t been to school in over a week. This put me at ease. However, it also caused me to become a little more informed about fifth disease.
What is Fifth Disease
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, “Fifth disease is a mild rash illness caused by parvovirus B19.” Children are more likely to develop this illness. Furthermore, “20%” of infected children and adults do not have symptoms. What surprised me the most, is how long it can take before a person starts feeling sick. While it may take a week or two to show symptoms after exposure, some cases of fifth disease may not manifest until almost three weeks later.
A Slapped Cheek Rash and Other Symptoms
According to kidshealth.o rg, the first symptoms of Fifth disease may be “mild cold-like symptoms” such as a a low-grade fever, runny nose, sore throat and headache. You are contagious when you are experiencing these cold-like symptoms. A few days later, you may notice a rash. The rash, which usually starts on the face, is most likely to be seen on children under 10 years old. A few days after the rash begins it often spreads to the trunk and extremities. Sometimes the rash is itchy. Some also experience joint pain. However, in general, (unless you have a weakened immune system) the disease comes and goes without any major complications.
A Note about Pregnant Women
When I was teaching, I remember there was an outbreak of Fifth disease at my school. Luckily, it was concentrated mostly in the kindergarten. However, pregnant women need to be mindful of fifth disease. Although most babies will not be affected, according to babycenter.com, in a ” small percentage of cases, parvovirus infection during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, fetal anemia, and sometimes inflammation of the baby’s heart.” For this reason, it’s good to avoid anyone with fifth disease and be hygienic. In other words, wash your hands well, avoid people with cold-like symptoms and don’t share eating utensils and glasses.
Luckily, it’s been over two weeks since I got the notice and there haven’t been any new cases of fifth disease at my daughter’s school. However, I doubt it will be the last time I get a school notice about a student having this common childhood illness. At least, next time, I will already be informed.