Guest blogger Meanest Mom caught a highly contagious and rapidly spreading viral illness so dangerous that it threatened her unborn baby.
On the last day of preschool, my son came home with flushed cheeks and a rash on his torso and legs. I would have chalked these symptoms up to seasonal allergies, if not for an article on Fifth disease that I had read on momlogic a few days before. A common and highly contagious childhood illness, Fifth disease is a viral illness that has infiltrated preschools and day-care facilities across America. While the illness has no lasting effects in healthy adults and children, it can cause serious complications for pregnant women.
As fate would have it, I was 18 weeks pregnant when my son was diagnosed with Fifth disease. Although I didn't have any symptoms of the illness, like rash, fever, or joint pain, my obstetrician ordered a blood test, just to be safe. A few days later, I learned that I had not only contracted the virus, but had also passed it onto my unborn baby.
Fifth disease in pregnancy is largely treatable, if detected. Weekly ultrasounds can check for the development of hydrops -- a life-threatening form of fluid build-up. In severe cases such as mine, intrauterine blood transfusions have been proven effective in reducing the chances of fetal demise.
While my story represents a small minority of Fifth disease cases, what it so alarming is how close I came to potential disaster. If you are pregnant, it may be worth considering adding Fifth disease to the list of illnesses for which you are screened during pregnancy ... just in case.
We were shocked by this, so we asked momlogic contributor pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson about Fifth disease. She eased our fears letting us know this story is very uncommon. She says, "Fifth disease is a common illness among young children. When they get it, they may have some mild symptoms (fever, malaise) and the characteristic rash ("slapped cheeks"), but generally it is considered benign for this age group. However, the virus which causes Fifth disease is known to have potentially dangerous effects on a growing fetus. While this is very rare, a fetus can develop an illness called hydrops, which causes anemia (destruction of red blood cells) and edema (retention of fluid). Fifth disease is so common that it is essentially unavoidable during pregnancy. But if a school sends home a notice that it is going around, a pregnant woman should generally avoid exposure. And good common sense hygiene measures (like regular hand washing) may reduce the risk of transmission."
What do you know about Fifth disease?