Fifth Disease (cont.)

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What are the serious complications of fifth disease? Is infection with fifth disease dangerous during pregnancy?

Rarely, these patients develop erythrocyte aplasia, meaning the bone marrow stops forming a normal number of red blood cells. This complication is rare and usually transient, but can be fatal. Patients who are immunocompromised (by disease or treatment) are at high risk of this complication.

Pregnant women (who have not previously had the illness) should avoid contact with patients who have fifth disease. The fifth disease virus can infect the fetus prior to birth. Although no birth defects have been reported as a result of fifth disease, for 2%-10% of B19-infected pregnant women, fifth disease can cause severe anemia and even the death of the unborn fetus (by hydrops fetalis).

What is the treatment for fifth disease?

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The only available treatment is supportive. Fluids, acetaminophen (Tylenol), and rest provide relief. Antibiotics are useless against fifth disease, because it is a viral illness. For those with persistent arthritis, anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve) can be used.

How is fifth disease spread? When is the contagious stage, and should I be isolated if I have fifth disease?

Parvovirus B19 is usually spread by droplets. The virus can be spread whenever an infected person coughs or sneezes. However, once the rash is present, that person is usually no longer contagious and need not be isolated.

Is it possible to prevent the spread of fifth disease?

Similar to most viral illnesses, the best way to prevent the spread of the disease is by proper hand washing, by covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, and by staying home when you become sick.

REFERENCES:

American Academy of Pediatrics. "Parvovirus B19 (Erythema Infectiosum, Fifth Disease)." In: Pickering LK, ed. Red Book: 2009 Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases. 28th ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics, 2009: 491-493. Available at: http://aapredbook.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/2009/1/3.92.

Broliden, K et. al. "Clinical Aspects of Parvovirus B19 Infection." Journal of Internal Medicine 260.4 Oct. 2006: 285-304.


Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/13/2014

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