Roseola

  • Medical Author:
    John Mersch, MD, FAAP

    Dr. Mersch received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego, and prior to entering the University Of Southern California School Of Medicine, was a graduate student (attaining PhD candidate status) in Experimental Pathology at USC. He attended internship and residency at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

  • 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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How is roseola spread? What is the incubation period for roseola?

Roseola is spread from person to person, typically by transfer of oral secretions. The incubation period between exposure to the virus and onset of symptoms is nine to 10 days. Humans are the only natural hosts for HHV-6 and HHV-7. Unlike some other viral infections, roseola occurs throughout the year without seasonal variation.

What are roseola symptoms and signs?

The signs and symptoms of HHV-6 (or HHV-7) infection vary depending upon the age of the patient. Infants and toddlers routinely develop sudden symptoms with a sudden onset of a high fever that lasts for three to five days. The child may also develop irritability, swollen glands in the front or back of the neck, runny nose, puffy eyelids (due to swelling with fluid), and mild diarrhea. Within 12-24 hours of the fever breaking, a rash rapidly appears. Older children who develop HHV-6 (or HHV-7) infection are more likely to have an illness characterized by several days of high fever and possibly a runny nose and/or diarrhea. Older children less commonly develop a rash as the fever abates.

How is the diagnosis of roseola established?

The characteristic clinical pattern of sudden onset of high fever and development of the typical rash at the time of fever resolution generally enables a rapid diagnosis without any laboratory studies. For unusual presentations, patients with complications or those with immune deficiency states, several forms of blood tests can assist in establishing the diagnosis.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/16/2015
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