xFifth Disease in schools, but not considered dangerous

There’s an unusual number of people with rosy cheeks in the county, and not just because of the weather.

People are showing the tell-tale red cheeks of Fifth Disease.

Officials at the Warren County School District and St. Joseph School confirm that there are cases in the schools.

The illness is caused by the human parvovirus – not the same as the one pets may be vaccinated against.

The disease starts out with cold-like symptoms: fever, runny nose, and headache.

After several days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the “slapped cheek” rash can develop. That rash typically goes away in seven to 10 days, but can hang around for several weeks.

In some cases, a second rash elsewhere on the body follows. In some adults, the disease results in pain and swelling in joints lasting from a week to several months.

According to St. Joseph Principal Dr. Howard Ferguson, the illness is present at the school.

Some students are showing the facial rash. A significant rash can be a reason students will be sent home from schools and day care centers. However, the rash is a sign that the disease is no longer infectious.

“The kids that have the rash are allowed to be in school,” Ferguson said. “It’s run its course.”

He said the information he’d heard indicates that the illness is “no big deal” and, “Doctors do not want to see these children in their offices.”

“A lot of people have that,” Dr. David McConnell of Warren Pediatrics said. “We’ve had quite a few people that just called and (we) saved them a trip. It goes away by itself.”

Warren County School District Nursing Department Head Louise Tharp said there are cases in district schools.

Other than the fever, it is difficult to assign an indicator that students should not be in school. “We recommend that children should stay home from school if they have a fever of 100 degrees Farenheit or higher,” Tharp said.

Preventing the spread of the disease is like the prevention for a variety of illnesses that are passed by sneezing and coughing.

“The district encourages good hand washing and coughing and sneezing in your elbow to help prevent many illnesses,” she said.

“Don’t share food or drink with someone who has it,” McConnell said.

Sometimes those infected will suffer no symptoms. That happens in about 20 percent of cases, according to CDC. Those who get Fifth Disease will be immune to it thereafter.

In most cases, none of the symptoms are dangerous or lasting. Those afflicted may use anti-itch cream, an antihistamine, or a pain reliever, McConnell said.

In rare cases, the illness can cause serious health complications in those who have weakened immune systems.

Pregnant women who acquire the illness should contact their doctors.

The clinical name of the disease is erythema infectiosum.

In the 19th Century, an English physician wrote a treatise on diseases that can causes rashes. Among the familiar and easy to pronounce names – like measles – number five on that list was erythema infectiosum.

“Because the name was so long, people found it easier to call it Fifth Disease,” McConnell said.