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Fifth Disease (Parvovirus)

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Fifth disease facts

  • Fifth disease is caused by a virus.
  • Symptoms include low fever, fatigue, a "slapped cheeks" rash, joint aches, and a whole body rash.
  • Diagnosis is made based on clinical features.
  • Rarely, fifth disease can become complicated.
  • Fifth disease in pregnant women can cause a miscarriage.

What is fifth disease? What causes fifth disease?

Fifth disease is a viral illness caused by parvovirus B19. Fifth disease has also been known as erythema infectiosum and "slapped cheek disease." The clinical illness was described in 1896 and named fifth disease because of its fifth position in the numerical classification of six childhood illnesses associated with rashes (exanthems). Other numbered viral exanthems included measles (rubeola or first disease), rubella (German measles or third disease), and roseola infantum (sixth disease). Scarlet fever was called "second disease" and is due to the bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes. Fourth disease is no longer classified as a clinical entity. These did not get renamed until the molecular era, when it became possible to isolate viruses and bacteria. Fifth disease is a very common infection. Almost 50% of adults have been infected with parvovirus B19 but often do not remember having it because this infection frequently does not cause symptoms.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/7/2016


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