How Long Is Fifth Disease Contagious?

  • 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.

Ask the experts

What is the incubation period for fifth disease and for how long are you contagious if you do have it?

Doctor's response

The incubation period -- the time that elapses between contracting parvovirus B19 (the virus of fifth disease) and the start of the illness -- is 4 to 12 days.

A person infected with parvovirus B19 is only contagious during the early part of the illness, before the rash appears.

This contagious period for fifth disease is different than that for many other rash illnesses, such as measles, for which the child is contagious while he or she has the rash.

By the time a child has the characteristic "slapped cheek" rash of fifth disease, he or she is no longer contagious and may return to school or to a child care center.

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Reviewed on 1/11/2018