Fifth disease (erythema infectiosum) is a common childhood viral disease caused by the Parvovirus that last from two to five days, but occasionally may persist for weeks. It occurs in epidemics every few years, and virtually every child will eventually develop the infection before their teenage years.
The infection is characterised by red flushed cheeks (slapped cheeks appearance), paleness around the mouth and a red patchy rash on the arms and legs. Many children will have very mild symptoms that may be overlooked, or confused with German measles. Rarely joints may become sore and inflamed. Complete recovery is normal and no treatment is necessary.
Six diseases that caused a rash were known by numbers. They were first disease (measles), second disease (scarlet fever), third disease (German measles – rubella), fourth disease (Duke’s disease – Coxsackie virus infection) and sixth disease (exanthema subitum – roseola infantum).
Only the fifth disease nomenclature is commonly used today.