Fifth disease is caused by a virus called parvovirus B19. It commonly infects children and typically causes a mild rash that may resemble a “slapped-cheek”.
Other symptoms that can occur include joint pain (arthralgia), fever
and general flu-like symptoms. This disease does not have any lasting
effects in healthy children and adults. However if contracted when pregnant or
immuno-compromised (a weak immune system), complications may arise.
Transmission of fifth disease from the mother to baby can have serious
implications to the health of the baby. Fifthdisease can cause fetal
anemia, which if undetected can have severe consequences.
Many people with fifths disease show no symptoms at all. Therefore, the
only way to definitively diagnose it is to have a test. Approximately
50-60% of adults have had the disease and are immune. However, those
who are not immune may be at risk from picking up this infection,
particularly healthcare providers, childcare providers and teachers.
In some cases, however, where symptoms are not evident; a blood test
must be carried out. When your sample of blood arrives in the
laboratory, testing is carried out for specific antibodies that your
body produces in response to fifth disease.