Adult Fifth Disease
The period between becoming infected with parvovirus B19 and the start of fifth disease symptoms is generally 4 to 14 days, but can be as long as 20 days.
Unlike a child's fifth disease symptoms, adults can develop joint pain or swelling, or both. Usually, joints on both sides of the body are affected. The joints most frequently affected are the hands, wrists, and knees. The joint pain and swelling usually goes away in a week or two, but can last for several months.
Adults can also get a rash with fifth disease, but it is most often absent or does not have the "slapped cheek" look that is seen in children (see Fifth Disease Pictures).
A few days before the classic fifth disease symptoms appear, some people may have early fifth disease symptoms that include:
- Low-grade fever
- Body aches
In order to diagnose fifth disease in adults, the doctor will ask a number of questions about a person's symptoms and history of medical conditions. He or she will also perform a physical exam. Diagnosing fifth disease in adults can be difficult because it shares similar symptoms with other diseases. In cases in which it is important to confirm the diagnosis of fifth disease, a blood test may be done to look for antibodies (proteins that the body makes to fight viruses) to parvovirus.
There is no treatment that will kill the virus that causes fifth disease; therefore, fifth disease treatment goals focus on treating symptoms of the illness as the body fights the parvovirus. Fortunately, fifth disease is usually a mild illness among adults who are otherwise healthy.
A parvovirus B19 infection may cause serious illness in people with certain medical conditions (see Fifth Disease Prognosis).