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Fifth Disease

Fifth disease (also known as erythema infectiosum) is a mild, common rash illness caused by a virus. Outbreaks of fifth disease frequently occur in child care settings or schools.

What causes fifth disease?

Human parvovirus B19.

How is fifth disease spread?

Person-to-person, most likely through respiratory secretions. Can be epidemic among children. A person with fifth disease may be infectious without having symptoms.

What are the symptoms of fifth disease?

Rash; sometimes a low-grade fever or sore throat. The characteristic rash causes a striking redness of the cheeks (“slapped cheek”) in children and typically starts 1 to 3 weeks after other symptoms. The rash often begins on the cheeks and is later found on the arms, upper body, buttocks and legs; it has a very fine, lacy, pink appearance.

The rash tends to come and go for days, even weeks, especially as a response to sunlight or heat. In general, the rash around the face will fade within four days. The rash on the rest of the body fades within three to seven days of its appearance. Pain and swelling of the joints may occur, especially in adults

How long is it contagious?

Most contagious before the beginning of the rash and unlikely to be contagious after the rash begins

How can I prevent infection?

  1. Frequent, careful hand washing by child care staff, children and household members.
  2. Dispose of tissues containing respiratory secretions properly.

For more information, please call the Northern Kentucky Health Department at 859.363.2070 or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. 

Sources: Northern Kentucky Health Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Revised July 2015