Fifth Disease

Fifth Disease

As a supply educational assistant, I have been to many different schools here in Ottawa. In my travels I have occasionally seen on the front door of a couple of schools a notice that Fifth Disease was present in the school. I never paid much attention to it for a couple of reasons … I was under the impression it was mainly for pregnant women, and I had to carry on and work there regardless. Recently, Janice & I became intimately familiar with this disease (ironically likely contracted at the school I now have a regular position with).

It is also called Parvovirus B19, Erythema infectiosum and Slapped cheek disease. Fifth disease is a very common childhood illness, but adults can get it too. The symptoms are similar to the flu including runny nose, sore throat, fever and weakness. A distinctive rash follows several days later, and some people(mainly adults) have joint pain (inflammation). Fifth disease can be confused with other conditions with similar symptoms. Fifth disease can also cause problems for the fetus of a pregnant woman who is infected. There is also a small chance of miscarriage when infection occurs during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester.


Fifth disease is only contagious at the beginning of the infection. Once the rash appears, the infection is no longer contagious. It is transmitted from person to person the same way as any viral cold is spread. The infection is most commonly spread by inhaling air containing viral particles after an infected person has coughed or sneezed, or by sharing drinking vessels or eating utensils.

There is no specific treatment for fifth disease. Tylenol can help control some of the pain. Drinking plenty of clear fluids is recommended to help avoid dehydration. The disease usually goes away after a few weeks or months.

I have been sidelined by this disease for the past few weeks. The fever during the onset alternated with severe chills. The pain I have felt in my body at times has been in my right arm and shoulder, my back, my left foot, and generally throughout my entire body. I have been swollen and puffy … my entire body was (and still is) inflamed. There were days when I had difficulty brushing my teeth because the pain in my right arm was so great. I still struggle with pain, but it is not as bad as it was.

Monday I will return to work after being off for a few weeks. I will have to delegate my energy wisely and hope the tylenol will be effective in controlling the pain. I want to get back to being healthy and active …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *