Hospital warns of fifth disease exposure

August 6, 2008 6:35:17 PM PDT
Hospital officials say more than 400 letters were sent to patients last week. They say most people don't have anything to worry about, but for the small percentage that do, it could be a serious matter.

Hundreds of patients who visited the labor and delivery area at Stony Brook Hospital between June 26th to July 28th received the urgent letter from the hospital's director of quality control last week. It warns that two hospital workers recently tested positive for fifth disease.

The letter explains fifth disease as a mild rash illness that occurs mostly in children. Officials don't know how they caught it, but there is concern patients have been exposed.

"There are certain populations that this could have serious consequences," Dr. William Greene said.

Those groups include pregnant woman in the first half of their pregnancy. Greene said the fetus could become anemic and die from heart failure.

Also at risk are people with aids, cancer or leukemia. Greene worries pregnant patients who visited the hospital could spread it to people with weakened immune systems at home.

"Try to prevent droplets, coughing or sneezing. Try to avoid being within three feet of doing that," he said.

Symptoms of fifth disease include rashy red cheeks, a fever, headache, sore throat and/or joint pain. (Read more from the CDC)

Rachal Frescott had fifth disease when she was 10. She said it wasn't critical in her experience.

"It's a rash and you don't feel anything. Just a rash all over," she said.

Frescott has been in the delivery area of the hospital, the place considered high risk. Luckily for her, she is well beyond the first half of her pregnancy. Since she already had fifth disease, doctors say she's immune.

For more than 400 other Stony Brook patients, there's now a warning.

Hospital officials said if you're at risk or anxious about fifth disease, please come in for a free blood test to ensure a proper diagnosis and treatment.

"The risk of transmission in this setting is low and the risk complication is very low," Greene said.

Treatment for fifth disease usually involves addressing the symptoms.

The disease got its name decades ago. It was the fifth disease in a line of childhood rash issues.

Measles was number one.

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ON THE NET:

Stony Brook Hospital: http://www.stonybrookmedicalcenter.org/

CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/revb/respiratory/parvo_b19.htm

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STORY BY: Emily Smith

WEB PRODUCED BY: Bob Monek

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