What To Do About Fifth Disease, Erythema Infectiosum, From Parvovirus B19.

A 16 month old child with Fifth Disease (aka S...
A 16 month old child with Fifth Disease (aka Slapped face, Parvovirus B19). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My youngest’s school has an epidemic of Fifth Disease.  Why is it called Fifth?  Because there are measles, mumps, rubella, and scarlet fever got ahead of it?  Roseola gets the title of Sixth in a Danish study. (Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd. 2011;155(41):A3671.)

The standard diagnosis is made based on the “slapped cheek” syndrome, a bright red cheek that looks like it has been slapped by a very, very mean person who needs counseling.

Unfortunately the virus incubates for four to twenty days, and the slapped cheek shows up on day 17 or 18, long after you’ve passed on your friendly parvovirus to everyone you know.  There is some research that shows that the red cheeks are more of an immune response than the virus itself.

There are cases of severe reactions to Parvovirus, particularly in unborn children.  If the mother has not been exposed to Fifth Disease, she can get it and the child can become severely anemic.  In the vast majority of cases even pregnancy is fine with fifth disease, but mothers should be checked.  There is a vaccine in process, but there were several severe side effects from the vaccine trial, so it may be some time.  (Vaccine. 2011 Oct 6;29(43):7357-63. )

The standard rash response is face, arms, legs, and trunk, but a number of patients have been documented to have “gloves and socks syndrome” with tingling in those areas.  One group was infected with both Herpes-6 virus and Fifth Disease. (Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2009 Mar;28(3):250-2.)

Parvovirus is a simple virus, and fairly unique.  We don’t know a great deal about it because it doesn’t culture well, so it’s hard to study in a lab.  We do know that it has been with us for 98 million years, and many of its bits are included in mammal DNA.  Why would that be helpful?  Well, the weaker cousin to Parvovirus, AAV, decreased cancer replication 80%.  In other words, what is bad for us is worse for cancer cells.  So there might just be an upside to viral infection.

Oh, but you want to get rid of your infection?  Silly me.

Ok, the shorthand is that there are no antivirals for parvovirus.  There definitely is some wisdom in shutting down all viral replication, which would be along the lines of the complete anti-flu plan I’ve outlined on my website.

Specifically for the parvovirus, we have a variety of web resources:

There’s a nice herbal piece at Livestrong.  I particularly like the idea of aloe vera gel for the itching because it both cools the inflammatory response and blocks several things in the skin.

An Ayurvedic Doctor has several indian remedies that may be helpful.  I looked through the list and the only compound that a Maine family might have on hand is turmeric (curry).  But it is a good anti-inflammatory.

Finally, there are several discussions of a good homeopathic for Fifth disease.  The winner seems to be Rhus Tox, because the symptoms of Fifth look a lot like poison ivy.   Other remedies include:

Allium Cepa, Arnica Montana, Bryonia, Conium Mac, Lachesis, Nux Vom, Rhus Tox, Sulphur, Calcaria Carb, China, Dulcamara, Ledum Pal, Plumbum Met, Silicea, Antim Crude, Apis Mel, Belladonna, Mezarium, and other medicines.

PS. I checked.  There is no evidence that Parvovirus can be transmitted from humans to baby chicks (who just hatched in the classroom).  So I know a few children (and at least one parent) will be breathing easier this weekend.


3 Replies to “What To Do About Fifth Disease, Erythema Infectiosum, From Parvovirus B19.”

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