In music a perfect fifth might ring true, although when it comes to a common children’s ailment, fifth disease proves anything but harmonious.
A viral derivative of the human parvovirus B19, erythema infectiosum — also known as fifth disease — might go by several different clinical names, but colloquially known as slapped-cheek disease, owing its unique moniker to the tell-tale red cheeks indicative of the condition.
Commonly found in elementary-aged children, fifth disease is typically a mild illness associated with respiratory issues at its onset and followed by a bright red rash as the virus declines.
Dr. Jonathan Walters, family medicine physician with Dallas Medical Family Practice & Walk-in Clinic, said medical staff have seen several cases in the past week and aren’t surprised by the prevalence. Fifth disease, which spreads rapidly with flu-like symptoms, typically is most common when people are in closer proximity to one another during the winter and early summer.
Symptoms usually appear two to three weeks after initial exposure to the disease, and will take the form of cold symptoms like runny nose, scratchy throat, fever and headache that last about four to seven days, Walters said.
The rash appears as symptoms begin to subside, appearing on the face or extremities, and lasts several days in children.
“After that rash, they’re pretty much done with it,” Walters said. “Most kids get this and they don’t even know that they have it.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fifth disease might be more common than people think, as the center estimates about 20 percent of people exposed to the condition won’t exhibit any symptoms.
However, it’s not just children who contract the disease, as adults, too, are susceptible. Walters said adults are affected differently in that the rash may be accompanied by pain and swelling in the joints like the knees and wrists. The CDC reports the joint pain usually subsides in 1 to 3 weeks but can last up to a month, and typically goes away without intervention.
People who are immuno-compromised or pregnant women should be careful with the disease, as it could cause further complications such as chronic anemia or cause harm to the baby.
When it comes to treatment, Walters said it’s best to tackle fifth disease like a common cold: fever or pain relievers, plenty of fluids and rest, and strict hand washing to prevent transmission.
“(Fifth disease) may be more common than we see and unless we have the characteristic findings — the rash — we probably won’t label it as such,” Walters said.
“Most adults will have antibodies against this, meaning they have had it at some point in their life.”
Call Will Pinkston, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676 or follow @WCPinkston on Twitter.