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Jamaica Health Tips Blog

October 2015

Hand foot and mouth disease; should you be worried?

With the recent buzz in the media about the outbreak of hand foot and mouth disease in our schools, Jamaican parents are frantic with fear and hoping that their children do not contract the disease. One of the latest news published by the Gleaner mentioned that there were approximately 313 reported cases of the disease from a total of 98 schools in the island.  The only four parishes that have not yet been affected are Trelawny, Hanover, Clarendon and Manchester. But what is this hand foot and mouth disease? Should you be worried?

As outlined on the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention website, Hand foot and mouth disease is a common viral illness that usually affects infants and children younger than 5 years old. However, it can sometimes occur in adults. This disease should not be confused with foot and mouth disease or otherwise called hoof and mouth disease that only affects cattle, swine and sheep, as these two diseases are not related and are cause by different viruses.

Early symptoms are usually fever, loss of appetite, sore throat and malaise, a day or two after the fever a child will start to develop painful sores in the mouth as well as small red blisters around the mouth, palm of the hand, sole of the feet, elbows, knees, buttocks and other parts of the body such as the genitals. These blisters may turn in ulcers which most times are painless. The thing that parents should pay attention to though, is that the painful sores in the mouth may result in dehydration and weight loss in their child as it would be difficult for him or her to swallow.

This disease most times only last for about a week however, it is during this time that the illness is most contagious. The infected individual can spread the virus when they cough; sneeze and the droplets are inhaled by people around them. A person can also get infected by touching an object contaminated with the virus such as toys, door knobs and then touch their eyes, nose and mouth. The virus can also spread through blister fluid and stool from an infected person hence, to help others from getting infected, you should stay home while you are sick and keep children at home until their fever and blisters have healed.

This will help in the transmission but not totally eliminates it as, the virus can still lives in a person body for weeks even after symptoms disappear. This means that it’s very important to seek medical advice as to when it’s safe to send your child back to school or when you can return to work. The hand foot and mouth disease as no treatment or vaccine, this disease is caused by a virus and antibiotic does not work against viruses. To relief symptoms doctors may prescribe a mouth wash or spray that numbs mouth pain and over the counter medications to reduce pain and fever. Children however, should never be given aspirin as it may result in other complications.

Here now are things you can do to help protect yourself and your children from getting hand foot and mouth disease; wash your hands often with soap and wash especially after changing diapers and using the bathroom, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands, avoid close contacts with an infected person such as hugging, kissing, sharing of utensils and disinfect frequently touched areas for example door knobs and toys.

Remember your health is your responsibility so be healthy today, for more information on hand foot and mouth disease please visit your nearest health facility. 
Are you prepared for the hand foot and mouth disease?