Hand, foot and mouth disease in children


The Ministry of Health remains on the alert now that two cases of what looks like hand, foot and mouth disease have been suspected in two children in the country.What is hand, foot and mouth disease?
Hand, foot and mouth disease is generally a mild illness caused by a specific type of virus. It is not a serious illness and has nothing to do with the animal disease called foot and mouth disease. It mainly occurs in children under 10 years of age but can also occur in older children and adults.

What are the symptoms?
This type of virus infection may cause no symptoms at all or only very mild symptoms. However when symptoms do occur, they include blisters that start as small red dots which later become ulcers. Blisters appear inside the cheeks, gums, and on the sides of the tongue, as well as on the hands and feet. In infants, sometimes blisters can be seen in the nappy area. Blisters usually last for seven to 10 days.
Children can also sometimes

• have a low fever,
• have a sore throat
• feel tired, and
• may lose their appetite for a day or two
Very rarely, the viruses can cause other illnesses that affect the heart, brain, lining of the brain (meningitis), lungs, or eyes.
How is it spread?
Hand, foot and mouth disease is usually spread by person-to-person contact. The virus is spread when secretions from the mouth or respiratory system of an infected person reach another person. Contaminated hands can also spread the virus to another. It usually takes between three and five days after contact with an infected person before the blisters appear.
How can it be prevented?
Good hygiene is the best protection:

• wash hands with soap and water after going to the toilet, before eating, after wiping noses, and after changing nappies or soiled clothing.
• Avoid sharing cups, eating utensils, items of personal hygiene (for example: towels, washers and toothbrushes), and clothing (especially shoes and socks).
• Thoroughly wash any soiled clothing.
• Ensure the mouth and nose are covered when coughing and sneezing. Wipe the nose and mouth with tissues, dispose of used tissues and then wash your hands.
What is the public health response?
Hand, foot and mouth disease is infectious. To help prevent spread, parents who suspect their child might be infected with hand, foot and mouth disease, should report the illness to their doctor immediately.
Children with hand, foot and mouth disease should not go to school or day care facilities until their blisters have dried.
For more information, contact doctors at your health centre.