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Health Alert: Curry County sees rise in Fifth Disease

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Teodoro Garza
  • 27th Special Operations Aerospace Medicine Squadron

Recently, there has been a slight spike of Fifth disease in children living in Curry County, N.M.  The Cannon Air Force Base Public Health Office has collaborated with the Cannon Pediatric Clinic and local county health departments to investigate the situation.  Normally, a rise in Fifth disease cases will frequently occur in school age children due to the nature of transmissibility.

Fifth disease is caused by a specific virus, parvovirus B19, which is highly contagious and usually begins as a mild rash on the face.  The self-limiting disease is more common in children than in adults.  A person usually gets sick within 4 to 14 days after getting infected with parvovirus B19.  The signs and symptoms are usually mild and may include fever, runny nose and headache.

After several days, you may see a red rash on the face called “slapped cheek” rash.  This rash is the most recognizable feature of the disease.  Some people may get a second rash a few days later on their chest, back, buttocks, arms or legs. The rash may be itchy, especially on the soles of the feet. It can vary in intensity and usually dissipates after 7 to 10 days, but can reappear after several weeks.

Parvovirus B19 spreads through respiratory secretions, such as saliva or nasal mucus, when an infected person coughs or sneezes.  You are most contagious when you exhibit cold-like symptoms shortly before the onset of the rash, joint pain, and swelling.  After the rash appears, you are not likely to be contagious.  People with Fifth disease who have weakened immune systems, such as pregnant women, the elderly, infants or individuals on long term immunosuppressive medications, may be contagious for a protracted period of time.

People with Fifth disease can also develop pain and swelling in their joints.  This is more common in adults, especially women.  Some adults with Fifth disease may only have painful joints, usually in their hands, feet, or knees with no other symptoms.  The joint pain usually lasts 1 to 3 weeks, but can last for months or longer, and usually resolves itself without long-term problems. 

Fifth disease is usually mild and will resolve on its own.  Children and adults who are otherwise healthy usually completely recover.  Preventive measures include washing your hands, covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, and staying home if you are sick.  If you have Fifth disease, treatment usually involves relieving symptoms, such as fever, itching, joint pain, and swelling.  People who have complications from Fifth disease should see their healthcare provider for medical treatment. 

For more general information on fifth disease, please see the following references: 

For information on pregnancy and fifth disease, please see the following reference: