Childhood illness appears at valley child-care centers; symptoms similar to a cold

Three Grand Valley child care centers have reported multiple cases of fifth disease, a common childhood illness characterized by mild symptoms similar to a cold followed by onset of a rash.

Child care centers are required to report outbreaks of what’s known as fifth disease to the Mesa County Health Department any time two or more unrelated children at a center are diagnosed with the disease. The health department believes there have been 15 to 20 suspected cases of fifth disease recently in the Grand Valley, according to Health Department spokeswoman Veronica Harvey, but it’s possible more cases are circulating but have not been diagnosed or reported.

The viral disease is caused by human parvovirus B19, not to be confused with canine parvovirus, which is a serious disease that is often fatal to dogs. Parvovirus B19 can only be transmitted between humans, and humans cannot contract canine parvovirus.

Fifth disease is the most common ailment caused by the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It most commonly affects preschool-age children who pick it up through respiratory secretions spread when infected people cough or sneeze.

The disease incubation period is typically four to 14 days but symptoms can appear as late as 20 days after infection, according to the CDC. The disease usually starts with a fever, runny nose and headache, followed by a rash that resembles a slapped cheek mark on the face and sometimes another rash elsewhere on the body. Some infected people get swollen joints as well, which is more common in adult patients. About a fifth of infected people never show symptoms.

The rash typically fades within seven to 10 days, according to the CDC and no medication is needed in most cases. Care center employees and parents are encouraged to sanitize surfaces frequently, make sure infected people cover their mouths or noses when they cough or sneeze, and encourage all people near an infected person to wash their hands frequently and avoid touching their eyes, nose or mouth.


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