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revised June 03, 2011

Arrow BulletCommunicable Diseases - Fifth Disease (Erythema Infectiosum)


What is Fifth Disease?

  • Fifth Disease is a viral infection caused by parvovirus B19.
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What are the signs and symptoms?

  • A red rash on the face, making the cheeks look like they have been slapped is characteristic and is often absent in adults. One to 4 days later, a red, lace-like rash appears, first on the arms and then on the rest of the body. The rash may last weeks to months and fluctuate in intensity. A brief illness of fever, headache, muscle aches and tiredness may occur 7-10 days before the rash. The time from exposure to first symptoms is 4 – 20 days with rash occurring 2-3 weeks after exposure.
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How is the disease spread?

  • The virus spreads the same way as a cold virus; on the hands of someone who has the infection, on something that has been touched by someone who has the infection or in the air by sneezing. People cannot spread the disease by the time the rash appears but do so before this time.
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How common is Fifth Disease?

  • Fifth Disease commonly occurs in children, especially in the winter and spring seasons when the disease is widespread in the community. By adulthood 50 – 80% of people have been infected with Fifth Disease and will not get it again if exposed.
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Is this a serious disease?

  • Up to one quarter of infections produce no symptoms. The disease is mild for healthy children and most adults. Adults with disease may have painful joints that can last for months. The infection may be more serious for children and adults with chronic forms of anemia or who are immunosuppressed. Infection in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy can cause severe anemia in the fetus. If you're in the first half of your pregnancy and think you have Fifth Disease see your family doctor. Women in the first half of pregnancy should also see their family Doctor if they have been in contact with someone diagnosed with Fifth Disease.
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Can I prevent Fifth Disease?

  • There is no treatment for Fifth Disease and no vaccine is available. Practice good personal hygiene. Frequent handwashing is the most effective way of preventing the spread of Fifth Disease and many other diseases. Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing. Children with the rash may continue to attend school if feeling well enough to take part in the activities since they are no longer able to spread Fifth Disease.
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For further information

  • Please call, Peel Public Health at 905-799-7700.
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Revised: June 03, 2011

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