Fifth Disease


What is Fifth Disease?

Fifth disease is a mild rash illness caused by human parvovirus B19.
  • Begins with a mild illness that may produce a fever, weakness, muscle aches and a headache.
  • An ill child typically has a “slapped-cheek” rash on the face and a lacy red rash on the trunk and limbs.
  • Ill adults can develop a rash and/or joint pain and swelling. 
People with chronic anemia, immune system deficiencies, leukemia, cancer, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or organ transplants are at risk for serious illness due to parvovirus.

Infection with parvovirus B19 can be a concern for non-immune pregnant women. There is a very small chance that infection of a pregnant woman can result in problems for the baby.

People with blood disorders or problems with their immune system and pregnant women who have had close contact with someone who developed this infection should consult their doctor.

How does fifth disease spread?

The virus is found in secretions of the nose and mouth. It is spread person to person by direct contact with these secretions; for example, through sneezing and coughing, touching used facial tissue or sharing cups and utensils.

When is it contagious?

A person infected with parvovirus B19 is contagious to others before the rash appears. By the time the rash appears the person is no longer contagious.

Children with fifth disease can return to school and will not spread the infection.

Managing fifth disease: What to do 

  • Treatment for symptoms such as pain, fever, or itching is usually all that is needed for fifth disease.
  • Adults with joint pain and swelling may need to rest, restrict activity, and take over the counter medicines like acetaminophen or ibuprophen to relieve symptoms.
  • Practice proper hand washing.
  • Do not share eating utensils.
  • Cover your nose and mouth while coughing and sneezing, followed by proper hand hygiene.
  • Dispose of used facial tissue immediately.

Call Oxford County Public Health if you have any questions about Fifth Disease at 519-539-9800.



Quick Reference

Fifth disease does not usually cause serious illness in most people and usually resolves in seven to 10 days.

Once a rash appears, a child is no longer contagious.

Children with fifth disease can return to school and will not spread the infection to others.