If, in this cold and flu season, a child develops a red rash that looks like a "struck cheek", it could be a virus called the Fifth Disease.
Parents worried about symptoms may not have heard of the disease, but pediatricians see it quite often as respiratory viruses rage in the fall, winter, and spring.
The unusual name for the disease comes from the fact that it is fifth in the list of common skin rash diseases in children, the Centers for Disease Control and
What should families know about this and why should pregnant women be treated? TODAY asked the experts.
What is a Fifth Disease?
It is a mild but contagious disease caused by parvovirus B1
"This is just one of many, very respiratory viruses that can cause infections in children," Dr. Athens Kurtis, a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases at the CDC and a member of the Infectious Diseases Committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics said. " What sets it apart from many other viruses is that the clinical course involves a rash. "
The fifth disease is transmitted through bodily fluids such as saliva or runny nose or when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Why is it more common in children?
This is true of many viruses because children "The immune system takes time to fully develop so that they will have many more colds in one year than adults," Kurtis said.
The fifth disease is most common in children 5 to 15 years old, according to Dr. Emily Goodwin, pediatrician at Children's Mercy Kansas City Hospital and Clinical Assistant in Pediatrics at the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Medicine
But adults can also get a fifth illness. that about half of adults are immunized against what they mean Chava had the infection as children – and half did not, Kurtis notes.
What are the symptoms?
They are similar to the common cold – mild fever, ie, runny nose and headache – with an important addition: "Cheek slap" followed by a second rash on the body.
Parents may not always know that facial flushing is part of the disease.
"This is difficult because during the cold and flu season, children they also get pink cheeks, they're just out in the dry air, "Goodwin said. "But it is very characteristic, this red rash."
The second lace-like rash is most commonly found on the arms, legs and trunk.
Ironically, children are no longer infected by the time they develop. the rash, both experts said.
"Their cheeks are pretty pink, but they are playful and look good," Goodwin notes. "If I see a child with a rash but it looks pretty bad, then I may start thinking about things other than this virus."
Adults who have a fifth illness may also experience pain and swelling in their joints.  What are the complications?
Fifth disease is nothing to worry about in healthy children and adults, Kurtis said.
But if a pregnant woman who is not immunized becomes infected, there is little risk of harm to the fetus, especially during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, she added.
"A baby can get very serious anemia, which can lead to swelling of the fetus, heart failure and in some cases even death of the fetus." Kurtis warned: "The risk is small but real."
A simple blood test can reveal whether or not a person is immunized against a fifth disease. People with weakened immune systems can also get serious complications.
What is Treatment?
The disease usually goes away on its own. There is no specific treatment other than supportive care for fever and symptoms.
Parents should call a doctor if the child is unwell, does not look right, has a fever that lasts four days or more, or the rash seems widespread.
"Rash can be really difficult," Goodwin notes.
Is it possible to prevent fifth disease?
There is no vaccine, so the best prevention is good hygiene, both experts say.
- Washing hands with soap and water is the best prevention.
- For pregnant women, avoid close contact with someone who is ill.
- Those working in healthcare, childcare or school where they may be exposed to sick children should be especially vigilant.
- Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.
- Do not send children to school when they are ill.