Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD)

A few children under the age of 5 years have been recently diagnosed with hand-foot-and-mouth disease (HFMD) in St. Kitts & Nevis.

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease (HFMD) is a mild, viral infection that is highly contagious and it mainly affects children under 7 years of age but anyone can get it.

HFMD is most commonly caused by a coxsackie virus but other enteroviruses have been implicated. HFMD outbreaks occur commonly in summer and autumn in the USA. What are the signs and symptoms of hand-foot-and-mouth disease? Hand-foot-and-mouth disease may cause some of the following signs and symptoms:

• Fever
• Sore throat
• Loss of appetite
• Drooling and child can become irritable and fussy
• Painful, blister-like lesions on the tongue, gums and inside of the cheeks
• Skin rash affecting palms, soles and sometimes buttocks. The rash may appear as flat red spots, tiny bumps, or red blisters.

The usual period from initial infection to the time symptoms appear (incubation period) is 7 to 10 days.

How is hand-foot-and-mouth disease (HFMD) spread?

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is spread by person-to-person contact with an infected person:

• Nose secretions or throat discharge
• Saliva
• Fluid from blisters
• Stool
• Respiratory droplets sprayed in the air by an infected person’s cough or sneeze

How can hand-foot-and-mouth disease be prevented?

The following interventions can reduce your child’s risk of HFMD:

• Children experiencing signs and symptoms of HFMD should limit their exposure to others and stay at home.
• Adults who have HFMD should stay at home from work.
• Staff at daycare and pre-schools should clean and disinfect high traffic and high-touch surfaces with soap and water followed by a diluted solution of chlorine bleach and water.
• Children should be taught how to wash hands properly in the following instances: before and after eating, before and after playing, after coughing and sneezing and after using the toilet.
• Children should be constantly reminded to keep hands/fingers away from mouth and face.
• Adults providing care for children should wash hands thoroughly before and after each episode of caregiving.
• Avoid sharing eating utensils and toys among children at this time.
• Avoid close contact with others.

In summary, hand-foot-and-mouth disease (HFMD) is usually a minor illness causing fever and mild symptoms for a few days.

There is no cure for this viral illness and no vaccine to prevent it.

The doctor usually recommends home care with symptomatic treatment until recovery. Let us all do our part to prevent the spread of this viral illness that is affecting our children.

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