The Ministry of Health has advised parents, guardians and teachers that there have been sporadic outbreaks of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) in the past few weeks, and they should therefore take all necessary precautions to curtail the spread.
The primary precaution recommended to prevent the spread of the normally benign disease, the Ministry stressed, was for children to wash their hands frequently and
Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is a viral illness and symptoms include fever, malaise, sore mouth and a rash. Mouth lesions appear on the inside surfaces of the cheeks and gums, and on the sides of the tongue.
Raised pink spots that develop into blisters, which may persist for seven to ten days, can also occur as a rash, especially on the palms, fingers, soles and on the buttocks. The disease occurs mainly in children under ten years old but adult cases are not uncommon.
The virus is spread by direct contact with nasal and throat secretions or faeces of the infected person. The virus can also be transmitted by aerosol spread, i.e. coughing and sneezing. Coughing and sneezing are also likely to contaminate hands which, if not washed thoroughly, may transmit infection.
According to Senior Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Leslie Rollock, children should be kept away from school or nursery while they are unwell. However, with HFMD there is no need to keep a child away from school or nursery until the last blister has disappeared if he or she is otherwise well, the medical doctor advised.
Dr. Rollock disclosed that complications may occur from the virus infections that cause HFMD. “They are not common,” she said, “but if they do happen, medical care should be sought for the child.”
The senior medical official said that there was no specific treatment for HFMD, and antibiotics were usually not necessary. “Over the counter pain relievers such as Paracetamol and Ibuprofen can be given for aches and mouth sores. Fever can be treated with fever-reducing medication,” she explained.
Mouth washes or sprays that numb pain can be used to lessen mouth pain. Fluid intake should be enough to prevent dehydration (lack of body fluids). If moderate to severe dehydration develops, parents must seek immediate medical care.
Additionally, the risk of infection in adults can be lowered by following the same good hygienic practices. These include washing hands frequently and correctly, especially after changing diapers and using the toilet.
Dr. Rollock also recommended cleaning dirty surfaces and soiled items, including toys, first with soap and water and then disinfecting them by cleansing with a solution of chlorine bleach (made by adding one tablespoon of bleach to four cups of water).
She further urged nurseries and schools to assist by employing these practices and working with children to avoid close contact, including kissing, hugging, and sharing eating utensils or cups with others who have HFMD.
The Ministry noted that the causative virus of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is quite different from that of Foot and Mouth Disease, which is a disease of animals.