AN OUTBREAK of a “slapped cheek” illness saw pregnant women warned to steer clear of infected children.

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Instances of the airborne virus, which is spread by respiratory droplets, were reported at Sidmouth Primary School recently.

The condition initially appears as a flu-like illness before a bright red – “slapped cheeks” – rash appears on the face, followed by a reddish rash on the body that can last for up to three weeks.

School bosses said that, by the time the facial rash appears, most patients are no longer infectious - and excluding children with the body rash “serves no purpose”.

However, pregnant women have been urged to try to avoid contact with affected children and see their doctor if they think they have the disease or have had contact with it.

The illness is commonest in the four to ten-year-old age group and outbreaks are common in primary schools in the late winter through to early summer.

The incubation period is six to 11 days.

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