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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What are fifth disease symptoms and signs in children and adults?

Fifth disease generally occurs in children between 4-10 years of age, but it can affect any age group. Fifth disease most commonly occurs during the winter and spring. The illness classically begins with a low-grade fever, headache, runny nose, and malaise (a sense of not feeling well). Of course, these symptoms mimic any other viral illness, so it is impossible to determine the cause early in the illness. After about a week, initial symptoms are followed by a characteristic bright red rash on the cheeks (the so-called "slapped cheeks"). Finally, after three to four days, a fine, red, lacelike rash can develop over the rest of the body. This rash may last for five to seven days and occasionally comes and goes for up to three weeks. The other symptoms are usually gone by the time the rash appears. Patients with the rash are usually not contagious. Unfortunately, as with many other viral illnesses, the features and timing of the different stages of illness are often unpredictable.

Unlike other viral infections that usually cause "hand, foot, and mouth disease" (namely coxsackievirus A16 and enterovirus 71), fifth disease does not involve the palms and soles.

Are there other symptoms that can occur with fifth disease?

Around 5% of children and about half of adults with fifth disease experience joint aches and pains. This arthritis or arthropathy is more common in females than males, is usually temporary, lasts days to weeks, and may become a long-term problem for months. People with arthritis from fifth disease usually have stiffness in the morning, with redness and swelling of the same joints on both sides of the body ("symmetrical" arthritis). The joints most commonly involved are the knees, fingers, and wrists.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/7/2016

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