Fifth Disease | Complications

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What are the complications of fifth disease?

Fifth disease doesn’t usually cause complications. But it can in certain cases, such as:

  • Pregnancy. Pregnant women who have been exposed to fifth disease should contact their family doctor. In about 5% of pregnant women, the baby develops severe anemia and miscarriage or stillbirth can occur. Treatment options include a blood transfusion to the unborn baby and medicines to treat the virus. If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor about whether you need to take any special steps to avoid fifth disease. The fifth disease infection does not cause birth defects or mental retardation.
  • Weak immune system. People who have immune system problems, who have had transplants or who have cancer may need special treatment to help fight the infection.
  • Chronic anemia. People who have sickle-cell disease or other types of chronic anemia have a problem with their blood that disrupts its ability to carry oxygen throughout their bodies. If they catch fifth disease, they can sometimes develop severe anemia that requires blood transfusions. (Note: Interestingly, these people rarely develop the typical fifth disease rash.)
  • Other. Fifth disease also has been linked to other diseases, including an infectious form of arthritis.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 03/14
Created: 08/09

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