Fifth disease (sometimes commonly referred to as fifth's disease) is just one of many names for a particular infection by a
virus known as parvovirus B19.
It is also commonly known as slapped cheek syndrome, slapped face, erythema infectiosum, and in Japan it is simply known by the name "apple sickness".
Why do they call it fifth disease in the Western world? Because it was the fifth in a series of diseases characterized by a rash to be identified. Measles was first, followed by scarlet fever, rubella, and chicken pox.
The symptoms of fifth disease are numerous, however the presence of bright red cheeks are the defining feature of the infection.
Other symptoms of fifth disease include an expansion of the rash to include both the area surrounding the mouth as well as the bridge of the nose, and occasionally a red, lacy rash can develop on other areas of the body, the arms and legs being the most common spots for this to occur.
Those infected with fifth disease may also experience stomach pain, a sore throat, itchy skin, and headaches.
It is also quite possible to contract fifth disease and not know it. Because it is such a mild infection, roughly 25% percent of those infected do not show any substantial symptoms and may never even know that they had the condition.
"Why do they call it fifth disease? Because it was the fifth in a series of rashes to be identified. Measles was first, followed by scarlet fever, rubella, chicken pox, and fifth disease."
Fifth disease is usually quite harmless, and will usually go away in several days by itself without treatment.
There are, however, two groups who should be wary of fifth disease and the complications it can cause. These include pregnant women with the condition who may threaten their unborn child with a severe form of anemia as a result of infection. Anyone with a form of chronic hemolytic anemia, such as sickle cell disease, should also see a doctor if they suspect the presence of fifth disease.
More about fifth disease around the Web:
WebMD - Fifth Disease - Check out this easy read from WebMD with facts and information on what causes it, how it is spread, a list of typical symptoms, and tips for home remedies.
Fifth's Disease & Pregnancy - If you have a baby on the way, the March of Dimes has good information on what to do if you come down with the condition, important facts about how it may affect your unborn child, and when to see a doctor.
information is intended as reference and not as medical advice. All treatment
decisions should be made by medical professionals.