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What is Fifth Disease?

Fifth disease typically produces a distinctive rash on a child’s face that makes the face appear slapped It is common in kids between 5 and 15 years old.  It is a virus, and many children recover quickly and without complications.  It occurs every where in the world, with outbreaks mainly in winter and early spring. The virus begins with a low grade fever, headache and mild cold like symptoms.  These symptoms will pass, and a few days later a rash will appear on the face that will later spread to the body extending down to the trunk, arms and legs.  It may take 1 to 3 weeks for the rash to completely clear.  Other symptoms that may occur with Fifth disease include swollen glands, red eyes, sore throat, diarrhea, and sometimes blisters from the rash.  In some cases relating to adults and older teens, Fifth disease may be followed by swelling or pain in hands, wrists, knees and ankles. A blood test for the virus would indicate if someone has the disease.

Fifth Disease - Slapped Face

*Photo courtesy of the CDC.


A person with Fifth disease is most contagious during the period where they have respiratory symptoms and a fever.  Once the rash appears, the child is no longer contagious. Once a person is infected with the virus causing Fifth disease, they will develop immunity to it and won’t become infected again.  If Fifth disease is developed during pregnancy, it may create complications to the fetus.  Nonetheless, 50% of women have already been infected and have immunity to the virus. Some children with weak immune systems and certain blood disorders, may become significantly sick with the infection that could cause anemia. This may cause the red blood cell levels to drop to dangerously low levels.  Please call your doctor if the rash is widespread over the body, accompanied by other symptoms, or if you’re pregnant and develop a rash and have been exposed to Fifth disease.


There is no vaccine for Fifth disease, and no good way to prevent the spread of the virus.  Practicing good hygiene, like hand-washing, is always good prevention against the spread of viruses.   Although antiviral medicines are now available for many viruses, none are available that will treat Fifth disease.


If you have questions about the prevention and treatment of Fifth disease, please call our office today at 757-488-3333.

~Dr. Samir Abdelshaheed, MD

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