Fifth disease is caused by a parvovirus B19. The reason is has it’s name is that it is the fifth in a group of six childhood diseases that cause rash and fever. The symptoms of rash and fever are generally mild and frequently go unnoticed. The virus is also known as “slap cheek” due to reddened cheeks that can occur with the rash.
Although it is uncommon to develop fifth disease during pregnancy, a pregnant woman should try to stay clear of anyone who is known to have it. Most women are in fact immune, having been infected as children without having been aware of it.
If a woman is not immune and does contract the virus (such as with your sister) there is a very rare (less than 10%) increased risk of an early miscarriage or a rare form of fetal anemia. It is best that your sister follow her practitioner’s advice in this situation, however, she and her baby are very likely to be unaffected.
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Ask Tori RN®, by registered nurse and resident author of The Joy of Pregnancy, is a helpful and reassuring resource for parents-to-be.
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