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Fifth disease is actually just a viral illness that most kids recover from quickly and without complications. By the time the rash appears the child is no longer contagious.
Fifth disease (also called erythema infectiosum) is caused by parvovirus B19. Fifth disease begins with a low-grade fever, headache, and mild cold-like symptoms (a stuffy or runny nose). These symptoms pass, and the illness seems to be gone until a rash appears a few days later.
The bright red rash usually begins on the face. Several days later, the rash spreads and red blotches (usually lighter in color) extend down to the trunk, arms, and legs. The rash usually spares the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. As the centers of the blotches begin to clear, the rash takes on a lacy net-like appearance. Kids younger than 10 years old are most likely to get the rash.
The incubation period (the time between infection and the onset of symptoms) for fifth disease ranges from 4 to 28 days, with the average being 16 to 17 days.
The rash of fifth disease usually lasts 1 to 3 weeks.
Fifth disease is caused by a virus, and it cannot be treated with antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections. In most cases, this is such a mild illness that no medicine is necessary.
Usually, kids with fifth disease feel fairly well and need little home treatment other than rest. After the fever and mild cold symptoms have passed, there may be little to treat except any discomfort from the rash itself.
As with any virus the best defense is good handwashing!
From Kidshealth.org - here is the link to the entire article:
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