PDF Version of this Fact Sheet
Fifth disease is a mild rash illness
It is caused by a human virus called parvovirus B19 and primarily affects school age children.
Many people already have had fifth disease
Most people get infected between 5 and 14 years of age. It is
estimated that about half the adults in the United States have been
infected with parvovirus B19 and therefore can not get it again.
A red, patchy, "slapped cheek" rash on the face is common during infection
The rash may appear on other parts of the body (such as the arms,
trunk, buttocks, and thighs). Other symptoms such as fever, headache,
body ache, sore throat, congestion, runny nose, cough, nausea, or
diarrhea may come before the rash. In adults, joint pains or arthritis
may occur. Symptoms usually start 4 to 20 days after a person has been
exposed. About 25% of all cases have no symptoms. In both children and
adults, the disease is usually mild and recovery occurs without
problems. A person with fifth disease usually spreads the virus before the rash starts
The virus is spread by exposure to airborne droplets from the nose
and throat of infected people. The virus can also be transmitted by
blood or blood products.
There is a blood test, but it is not widely available
A blood test for antibodies is used to see if a person is currently
infected or was infected in the past. The blood test is used primarily
for pregnant women exposed to fifth disease. In most cases, the disease
is diagnosed based on the appearance of a typical rash.
There is no specific treatment or vaccine for fifth disease at this time
Some people are at higher risk of complications or serious illness if they get fifth disease:
Those at risk should check with their doctor
Those at increased risk for serious illness or complications should
realize that they might catch fifth disease from family members, others
in the community, and in child care, school, or other occupational
settings. Pregnant women and others at risk should consult with their
physicians if they have been in contact with a case of fifth disease.
The doctor may want to check the blood to see if they have already been
exposed to parvovirus. Routine exclusion of those at risk from settings
where fifth disease is occurring is not recommended since the risk
depends on whether the person is already immune. Each exposure needs to
be individually evaluated.
Exclusion of children with fifth disease from school or day care is not recommended
Since the greatest risk of viral spread is before symptoms begin, few control measures are necessary.
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