Fifth Disease and Pregnancy

Close up of pregnant Black woman's stomach
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Fifth disease is also known as parvovirus 19. It is called Fifth Disease because it was the fifth in a line of diseases named for a certain type of rash. Fifth disease is moderately contagious and is an airborne infection. It can spread easily through areas where there is a lot of contact, particularly where children are around, like day care centers and schools. About 50% of the adults have already had Fifth disease, making them immune and therefore their babies are protected.

The rash looks like you have been slapped. You may also have a lacy red rash on your limbs and trunk. The redness is flat and not raised. It can last anywhere from a couple of days to a month. It interferes with the production of red blood cells, which is why it is dangerous in pregnancy. If you think you have been exposed or someone in your household has been diagnosed with Fifth disease, you should call your practitioner.

Your practitioner can do a blood test to see if you have previously had Fifth disease, which would make you immune. There is no treatment for fifth disease. While it can cause problems with your baby, your doctor or midwife can monitor during your pregnancy with ultrasound to detect problems and even potentially treat them in utero.

Anemia is a problem associated with Parvovirus 19 infection in pregnancy. About 5% of the women who are actually infected, particularly in the early part of their pregnancy, can have a miscarriage due to the infection.

To avoid exposure, you should employ frequent hand washing. Though remember that someone is contagious before they have the rash, so the CDC does not recommend excluding women from work, even with an outbreak of fifth disease.

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