Parents alerted to virus


The Lyndhurst Board of Education has alerted parents to the recent appearance of a viral ailment known as “Fifth Disease” among several elementary school age youngsters in the district.

A March 6 posting on the BOE website said that some students had been diagnosed with the condition which was described as “a common disease of school children.”

It listed as likely symptoms, “red rash on cheeks, lacey and itchy rash on arms and legs; sometimes mild joint pain or swelling [and] low grade fever.” Parents are advised to contact their doctors for more information.

In particular, the posting said that, “Pregnant women who have come in contact with an infected child should speak with their doctor.” The posting said that a child with the ailment is “contagious two weeks to three days before appearance of rash. Once rash appears, child is no longer contagious and can attend school.”

Superintendent of Schools Tracey Marinelli said last week that five children had been reported as having demonstrated symptoms of the disease and that, to her knowledge, all are recovering.

Marinelli declined to name which schools the infected children attend or to say how old they are. “They are all of elementary age range,” she said.

“A child can’t be re-admitted to school without a doctor’s note,” she noted.

Asked if she could recall any prior experiences with the virus during her tenure with the district, Marinelli said: “Not to this degree.”

Sarah Anderson, public health nurse/health coordinator of the Lyndhurst Health Department, said, “You commonly see Fifth Disease in grade schools and day cares. There is more of a concern for pregnant woman who may come into contact with an infected child.”

Anderson said that because the virus “usually presents itself as a cold” people may not realize it has infected the child until either a fever and/or rash onset.

Further complicating the diagnosis, Anderson said, is that, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “about 20%” of the children and adults who get infected will have no symptoms of Fifth Disease.

Anderson said that Fifth Disease virus “is always contagious when there’s a fever.”

Typically, Anderson said, fever and/or cold remedies should help contain the ailment.

There is no known inoculation against this virus, she said. As a general rule of thumb for avoidance of viral infection, Anderson said: “I encourage everyone to wash their hands often.”

In medical parlance, it’s known as Parvovirus B19 and derived its name from the fact that the illness was the fifth in a list of historical classifications of common skin rash illnesses in children, according to Anderson.

– Ron Leir

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