Adult Fifth Disease
About 50 percent of adults have already had fifth disease, and therefore are immune to the virus that causes it. When adults do get fifth disease, symptoms can include joint pain or swelling, low-grade fever, chills, and body aches. While some adults with fifth disease may get a rash, it will most likely not have the "slapped cheek" look seen in children with the illness. Diagnosing fifth disease in adults can be difficult because it shares similar symptoms with other diseases. Treating adult fifth disease involves managing the symptoms of the illness while the body fights the infection.
Fifth disease is a mild illness that occurs most commonly in children. It is caused by parvovirus B19. About 50 percent of adults have already had fifth disease as children or adolescents, and therefore are immune to the parvovirus. If an adult is not immune, he or she can become infected with fifth disease.
Other names for fifth disease include:
- Erythema infectiosum
- Slapped cheek syndrome
- Slapped cheek disease
- Sticker's disease.
The virus that causes fifth disease has been found in the respiratory secretions (e.g., saliva, sputum, or nasal mucus) of infected people before the onset of the rash, when they appear to still "just have a cold." Fifth disease transmission probably occurs from person to person, by direct contact with those secretions, such as sharing drinking cups or utensils.
Fifth disease infections can occur year-round, but they are more common during winter and spring months. In a household, as many as 50 percent of susceptible people -- those who are exposed to a family member who has fifth disease -- may become infected.