Fifth Disease reported in CBN region

How to know if you or your child contracts the viral illness

Melissa Jenkins
Published on December 16, 2014
Eastern Health logo

This is the time of year for colds and flus, but many parents likely don't think about their child catching something else.

Parents from some Conception Bay North communities have told The Compass this week that they have heard reports of Fifth Disease at some local schools.

Eastern Health spokeswoman Angela Greenslade told The Compass Fifth Disease, or Erythema Infectiosum, is a highly contagious viral illness, but is common in children.

"There is no treatment for Fifth Disease. This means that only symptoms can be treated as the disease runs its course," she said.

Greenslade confirmed there have been some reports from physicians and parents of children who are demonstrating signs and symptoms that coincide with Fifth Disease - fever, headache, cold-like symptoms and/or a skin rash with flat red spots, usually beginning on the face and spreading down to the torso, arms and legs.

According to the Kids Health website (, the rash on the face of the infected person can resemble a "slapped cheek."

Other symptoms the website mentions are "swollen glands, red eyes, sore throat, diarrhea and rarely, rashes that look like blisters or bruises." Joint swelling or pain may also be present, especially in adults or older teens.

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, five per cent of pregnant women who contract Fifth Disease can have a miscarriage. It's advised for those women who are not immune - previously had the virus - to avoid anyone affected by it.

"Fifth Disease usually affects infants and children, but can sometimes occur in adults. It is transmitted through close contact with nose and throat discharges, saliva or the stool of an affected person," Greenslade said.

Parents mentioned two schools in the area where more children were out sick - Carbonear Academy and All Hallows.

In a statement supplied to The Compass, Newfoundland and Labrador English School District denied those reports, but confirmed it was aware of the Fifth Disease issue.

"Neither Carbonear Academy nor All Hallows Elementary are experiencing a heightened level of absenteeism, though both schools are aware of the issue of Fifth Disease. District officials have been in contact with Eastern Health and will certainly cooperate with the health authority should any future action be required."

Although there is no outbreak, any child that comes in contact with an exposed person could contract it, even if there are no symptoms.

"Individuals with Fifth Disease are most contagious before physical symptoms appear," Greenslade confirmed.

There is no vaccination or treatment for Fifth Disease, and it usually lasts between one and three weeks. Symptoms, however, can be treated.

If you believe you or your child is demonstrating Fifth Disease symptoms, you can contact the Healthline at 1-888-709-2929, or the pediatric advice line at 1-866-722-1126.

For more information, you can contact your family doctor or visit the Eastern Health phone director at