Fifth Disease Featured on ER

    Popular TV Show Highlights Disease Complications Associated with

    DUBLIN, IRELAND, October 24 /CNW/ - A very interesting story about a new
potentially dangerous human virus, Fifth diseases, will be aired on the
episode of ER (Under the Influence (October 25, 2007; NBC)). Fifth disease
gets its name by being the fifth childhood disease that we can expect to
catch, after measles etc. This episode shows a case of a pregnant woman who
had contracted fifth disease (caused by a virus called parvovirus B19), from
the school where she worked. In this case the baby was saved by the medical
team, but this is not always the outcome of this infection - an infection that
affects the majority of us in childhood.

    The disease is characterized by a facial rash that looks like the cheeks
have been slapped and so it is also termed "slapped-cheek syndrome". In adults
there is also an arthritis that may last for several months. Since the
introduction of vaccination for measles, mumps and rubella, fifth disease has
become one of the most common causes of rash, although it can often be
mistaken for these other viruses, particularly measles. In some cases there
are no obvious symptoms although the infected person can still pass the virus
on to others.

    The virus is spread by the respiratory route in a similar way to colds
and flu. When someone in the household or in close proximity is infected,
there is a 50% chance that others will catch the disease if they haven't
already been infected. Once you have been infected, you should expect
life-long immunity to follow. As most of us have been infected between the
ages of 6-10 years, around 50-70% of us are immune.

    Unfortunately for those who haven't been infected previously in
childhood, fifth disease in adults can be a painful infection, particularly in
the joints with symptoms that mimic rheumatoid arthritis. An infection anytime
during pregnancy can be devastating to the unborn child, but especially in the
second trimester (second third of the pregnancy), as the virus attacks the
cells that produce the baby's red blood cells and may cause an anemia severe
enough to kill the baby. It is estimated that as many as 3,000 babies are lost
to fifth disease during pregnancy every year within the USA and probably a
similar number in Europe.

    Although there is presently no vaccine (trials are underway at present),
a severely anemic baby can be treated by giving it a blood transfusion whilst
it is still in the womb. The best remedy of course, is to avoid getting
infected by avoiding high-risk areas such as schools or kindergarten during an
outbreak of fifth disease. For pregnant women taking their children to and
from school this can be quite difficult, but a simple blood test for
parvovirus B19 is readily available and can tell you if you are at risk of
infection, or are immune. See for more information on the
disease and on how to check if you are at risk.

For further information:

For further information: Petros Sarantos, +353 1 283 11

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