Fifth Disease (Parvovirus)

  • Medical Author:

    Robert Ferry Jr., MD, is a U.S. board-certified Pediatric Endocrinologist. After taking his baccalaureate degree from Yale College, receiving his doctoral degree and residency training in pediatrics at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), he completed fellowship training in pediatric endocrinology at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Fathoming Fifth Disease

Fifth disease is also called erythema infectiosum. Erythema (redness) refers to the characteristic "slapped cheek" red rash on the face. This rash may itch.

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 distinguished 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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