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Slapped Cheek Disease

We have had a small number of children diagnosed with 'Slapped Cheek Syndrome' at school recently.

This is a viral illness that gets its name from the characteristic 'slap like' rash that appears on children's faces. It is usually a relatively mild disease that begins with a rash on the face which can spread to the body and then fades. The virus is spread by sneezing, coughing or close contact. Good personal hygiene is important to prevent the virus spreading - using tissues and washing hands regularly for example.

Children are infectious for the 5 to 6 days before the rash appears. It is difficult to prevent the spread of the virus as children are most contagious before their symptoms begin, so they are unaware that they are infected. Once the rash appears children are no longer infectious and once a child has recovered from slapped cheek they should have lifelong immunity to the illness. Slap cheek can also affect adults.

There are three high-risk groups in which the slapped cheek virus can cause a more serious infection and trigger a range of complications. These are listed below.

  • People with certain blood disorders, such as sickle cell anaemia. This is where the blood doesn't contain enough healthy red blood cells (anaemia) and infection can lead to a further and more severe loss of red blood cells.
  • Pregnant women without immunity. Slapped cheek can increase the risk of a miscarriage because the virus can cause severe anaemia in the unborn child.
  • People with a weakened immune system (immunocompromised), either due to a side effect of treatment, such as chemotherapy or from a condition. These groups can experience prolonged, and sometimes severe, symptoms of infection.

If you're in one of these high-risk groups and you have been in close contact with someone who goes on to develop slapped cheek syndrome, please contact your GP or midwife for advice.

Further details can be found at: