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Harmless Childhood Illness Fifth Disease Can Be Dangerous for The Unborn 

Incubation period of illness can be two weeks before symptoms even appear

Taylor HS

TROY, Ohio (July 9, 2018) – Fifth Disease is a very common childhood illness that rarely becomes serious to those exposed to it – unless it’s a baby that has yet to be born.

Fifth Disease, also known as erythema infectionsum, is a viral infection caused by the parvovirus B19. It’s most prevalent in late winter and early spring, and is often characterized by a slapped cheek appearance on a child’s face.

“We usually first notice the illness by a child’s bright red cheeks, and can also see a lacy red rash on their extremities as well as the trunk of their body,” said Tammy Taylor, DO, with The Pediatric Group. “Children will often have a fever, headache, muscle aches, nausea and sometimes joint pain.”

The unfortunate thing about Fifth Disease is that its incubation period can be up to two weeks before symptoms even appear. This means children can be exposed to the disease before anyone knows there is a risk for catching it.

“A child is considered contagious before a rash even develops, which means it’s before anyone even knows,” said Dr. Taylor, who practices with Premier Physician Network. “And actually by the time the rash does develop a child is usually no longer contagious.”

Fifth Disease is spread through respiratory secretions, but it is not considered a dangerous illness. However, the disease can spread from mother to fetus, which can be a major concern for a woman who is in the early stages of her pregnancy. A fetus that is exposed to Fifth Disease can develop hydrops, a severe form of anemia and swelling. The condition can cause a fetus to develop fluid around its heart and lungs, which can lead to significant health issues or even death.

“Fifth Disease is a very common childhood disease, but for a pregnant woman, it can be very serious,” Dr. Taylor said.

So, what should be done if you know you or your child has been around a case of Fifth Disease?

Understand it’s a virus – Fifth Disease is a virus, which means antibiotics won’t do anything to help it go away. Focus on treating the symptoms such as Tylenol to help bring down a fever. The illness is much like other viral infections in that it just needs time to run its course. In most cases, Fifth Disease lasts from three days to a week.

Be watchful – Pregnant moms who have children in school or at a daycare facility will want to keep a close watch on any illnesses going around, but particularly Fifth Disease. See how a school or daycare facility notifies families of circulating illnesses, and consider speaking to staff about the concern over this particular disease. Ask to be notified if any cases arise, and if it does watch for any early signs that your child may not be feeling well.

Communicate with your doctor – Don’t hesitate to inform your OB/Gyn about any potential exposure you or your child may have had to Fifth Disease. Your provider may want to perform an ultrasound to check on the growing baby and to detect if there is any fluid on its body. Babies born with the condition can have the anemia treated or the fluid drained.

For more information on Fifth Disease or to find a Premier Physician Network physician near you, visit www.PremierPhysicianNet.com.

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