Fifth Disease on the Rise in Region 8

Jonesboro -  Many children in Region 8 are sporting rosy red cheeks these days.  In fact, these red splotches seem to come out of no where and have sent parents scrambling to find out what's wrong with their child.  In fact, it's "What's Going Around?"

"It's really itchy," said Madeline Martin, a first grader at Valley View Elementary.  "And when you sweat, it starts itching," chimes in her friend, Abby McGee.  Abby points to the red splotches on her cheeks.  "It's right here."

This red rash seems to be showing up a lot these days at Valley View Elementary in Jonesboro.

"We've just had several more cases than typical," explains Pam Clark, Principal of Valley View Elementary.  "It's not a new virus.  It's very common for children to get Fifth Disease."

Kids five to fifteen-years-old can get this viral illness that usually produces a red rash on the face--almost looking as if the child's been slapped.  The rash on the face then spreads to their torso, arms and legs.

"You can't take any medicine for it," Madeline said matter-of-factly.

There is no vaccine for Fifth disease and no real way to prevent spreading the virus because by the time the rash appears, the child is no longer contagious.  Aside from a low-grade fever or headache, the child never knows they have it until the rash appears.

And even though children typically get Fifth Disease, adults can still get it too--but the side effects are different.

"I was just real sore," said Holly Kaufman, a resource teacher at Valley View Elementary.  "I had joint pain.  I started swelling the next day.  My hands. My wrist. My legs were just very swollen.  Couldn't even get my ring on for a couple of days.  I'm better now.  But, I'm still really sore in my ankles."

Unfortunately adult symptoms can last weeks, even months.  Of the 35 to 40 cases of Fifth Disease at Valley View Elementary and Intermediate, two have been teachers.

But, this school is not alone.  Area pediatricians report seeing a lot of cases.  Tom Barnes' daughter goes to Blessed Sacrament School.

"We don't know where this is coming from or what to do for it," said Barnes.  "We were trying to treat our children for everything in the world and not knowing what to do."

Olivia Miles is just three years old, but even she turned up with the virus at the Valley View Pre-K Center.   Thirty-five percent of all schoolchildren will get Fifth Disease.

Doctors say Fifth Disease is easily spread in fluids from the nose, mouth, or throat of someone with the infection--either through coughing or sneezing.  Fortunately for youngsters, the side effects are usually minimal.

"It doesn't itch.  Not a bit," said Brooks Browning, a Valley View Elementary School first grader.

However, there is great concern for women exposed to Fifth Disease while they are pregnant. They should contact their obstetrician immediately.

Fifth Disease earned its name because it is the fifth pink-red infectious rash to be described by doctors.   First is scarlet fever, then measles, rubella, and then roseola.