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Fifth Disease

Fifth disease is an illness that is typically characterized by a rash that resembles a slapped cheek. Most commonly found in children, the disease is caused by parvovirus B19, a virus that is most likely transmitted through direct contact with respiratory secretions (saliva, sputum, or nasal mucus) of infected people. Some symptoms that can appear before the rash include low-grade fever, chills, and body aches. While there is no treatment that can kill the virus, the condition is usually a mild illness among children and adults who are otherwise healthy.

What Is Fifth Disease?

Fifth disease is a mild illness, caused by parvovirus B19, that occurs most commonly in children. It is commonly characterized by a rash on the face that resembles a slapped cheek.


Fifth disease is so named because in the late nineteenth century, it was recognized as the fifth of six exanthems of childhood. An exanthem is a widespread rash that is usually accompanied by such things as fever, body aches, and a headache. Exanthems can be caused by a number of things, including infections with viruses, and medicines such as antibiotics.

Fifth Disease and Parvovirus

Parvovirus B19 is a virus that commonly infects humans. About 50 percent of all adults have been infected sometime during childhood or adolescence. Parvovirus B19 is a small, single-stranded DNA virus that only infects humans.
A parvovirus can cause a variety of illnesses, including:
  • Fifth disease
  • Arthropathy (disease of a joint)
  • Transient aplastic crisis (temporary dysfunction of an organ)
  • Chronic anemia (deficiency of red blood cells)
  • Fetal infection.
Many of these conditions occur because parvovirus B19 causes problems with bone marrow cells.
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Information on Fifth Disease

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