DEAR DOCTOR K: A child in my son's class has "fifth disease." What is this? Is it contagious? What can I do to prevent my son from catching it?
DEAR READER: Fifth disease, also known as erythema infectiosum, is a common viral infection among school-aged children. It is caused by a virus called parvovirus B19. Fifth disease usually is a mild illness. Some people who are infected with the virus may never realize they have it. When symptoms do occur, they may include a stuffy nose, runny nose, slight fever, or body aches, headache, nausea, diarrhea and fatigue. These symptoms pass after three or four days.