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5 April 2017
Fifth Disease  

Causative agent

Fifth disease is a rash illness caused by parvovirus B19. This virus infects humans only.

Clinical features

Fifth disease is a mild illness that occurs primarily in children. A typical rash occurs on the face, giving the 'slapped-cheek' appearance. The rash may itch slightly and may appear less commonly on other parts of the body such as limbs and trunk. Low-grade fever and tiredness often precedes the appearance of the rash, which usually disappears in 7 - 10 days.

In adults, the disease is even milder and may present as joint pain and swelling only.

Parvovirus B19 infection in pregnant women can pass the virus to her baby, and cause foetal death. It can also lead to severe anaemia in patients with low immunity (e.g. AIDS and leukaemia).

Mode of transmission

Parvovirus B19 is transmitted primarily through direct contact with infected respiratory secretions. It can also be transmitted from mother to foetus during pregnancy, and through blood or blood products.

Incubation period

Incubation period is 4 - 20 days.

Management

Fifth disease is usually a mild illness. No definite treatment is needed. Treatment usually involve relieving symptoms such as fever, itching, joint pain and swelling. Patients should rest at home until they fully recover.

Pregnant women and other high risks persons who have close contact with patients of parvovirus B19 infection should consult doctor for further management.

Prevention

  1. Maintain good personal hygiene.
  2. Keep hands clean and wash hands with liquid soap and water properly. When hands are not visibly soiled, clean them with 70 - 80% alcohol-based handrub as an effective alternative.
  3. Cover nose and mouth with tissue while sneezing or coughing. Dispose the soiled tissues into a lidded bin, and then wash hands thoroughly.
  4. Keep good ventilation.
  5. Avoid close contact with patients of fifth disease.
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