By Stephen Pinkerton, KAHC Behavioral Health
| Kenner Army Health Clinic | Aug. 2, 2019
A relatively unfamiliar, yet common, communicable disease has caused some health concern during this summer of 2019—hand, foot and mouth disease.
Now, despite anyone’s apprehension that this may be a new epidemic – no one should panic. As a matter of fact, this disease is actually a seasonal expectation – usually occurring in late summer and early autumn – and although it does not commonly occur in adults, it is also not rare. However, the group most vulnerable to this illness is children under 10 years of age.
Still, this is a disease we should all know about for two reasons. First, so when it does happen, we can recognize it and deal with it appropriately, and second, so we can personally play a part in stopping its spread to others.
The Center for Disease Control reports that the Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease is a common viral illness that occurs around the world, anytime, but more often in the summer and early autumn. It usually affects infants and children younger than 10 years old. However, it can sometimes occur in older children and adults. It usually starts with a fever, reduced appetite, sore throat and a feeling of being unwell.
One or two days after the fever starts, painful sores can develop in the mouth. They usually begin as small red spots, often in the back of the mouth, that blister and become painful. A skin rash on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet may also develop as flat, red spots, sometimes with blisters.
Not everyone will get all of these symptoms. Some people, especially adults, may become infected and show no symptoms at all, but they can still pass the virus to others. Most people will have mild illness or no symptoms at all. But a small proportion of cases can be more severe. You should seek medical care in these cases.
HFMD is caused by viruses found in an infected person’s:
• Nose and throat secretions
• Blister fluid
• Feces (poop)
HFMD is transmitted by exposure to these viruses through:
• Close personal contact, such as hugging an infected person
• The air when an infected person coughs or sneezes
• Contact with feces, such as changing diapers of an infected person, then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth before washing your hands
• Contact with contaminated objects and surfaces, like touching a doorknob that has viruses on it, then touching your eyes, mouth, or nose before washing your hands
There is currently no vaccine for HFMD. You can lower your risk of being infected by doing the following:
• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after changing diapers and using the toilet
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and soiled items, including toys
• Avoid close contact such as kissing, hugging, or sharing eating utensils or cups with people with hand, foot, and mouth disease
There is no specific treatment for the disease. If you are concerned about your symptoms you should contact your health care provider.
Generally, a person with HFMD is most contagious during the first week of illness. You should stay home while you are sick with HFMD. Talk with your healthcare provider if you are not sure when you should return to work or school. The same applies to children returning to daycare.
Visit https://www.cdc.gov/hand-foot-mouth/ to learn more about HFMD.
2019 Kenner Army Health Clinic's Health Guide on Family Readiness