There have been reports in the Seattle community of Fifth’s Disease, a mild childhood illness that is often called “Slapped Cheeks illness.” The following information may help answer some questions:
- Fifth’s Disease is usually identified by the bright red cheeks that appear once children are no longer contagious.
- It is a virus that often appears in the springtime and children typically get symptoms similar to a cold with a “lacy rash”.
- It is spread through infected respiratory secretions by coughing or sneezing, and by hand-to-hand contact, the same as catching a viral cold.
- Sometimes children have body aches or a headache with a slight rise in temperature, but they may also be symptom free.
- This is the time when the child is contagious and can spread the virus to others.
- Days later the bright red rash appears on the cheeks and looks as if they have been sunburned or slapped on the face.
- You may also see a rash on other parts of their body that may be a bit itchy.
- Children are no longer contagious once the rash appears so they should come to school if they feel well.
- The rash may come and go over a period of weeks, and show up more in warm weather or when your child is very active.
Adults who get Fifth’s disease don’t get the facial rash, but can develop joint pain & swelling and a fine rash on their trunk, arms and legs. Pregnant women who are exposed to someone with Fifth’s Disease should inform their health provider. It is rare, but possible, that a pregnant woman who gets Fifth’s disease can have serious complications with her pregnancy if she gets sick with the virus. People who have a compromised immune system from other serious illness or receiving medical chemotherapy, should also seek medical care if they are exposed to Fifth’s Disease.
Luckily many adults will not get Fifth’s Disease because they are immune from having been exposed to it earlier in life. If you are at risk for complications, your health provider can determine if you are immune.
I hope this is helpful in the event you hear about Fifth’s Disease at QAE. So far, I do not know of any cases, but this is the season.
In good health,
Eileen Bullinger, RN, MS, NCSN
School Nurse, Queen Anne