HAND, FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE (HFMD)Hand-foot-and-mouth disease (HFM) is caused by coxsackievirus A-16. It has its name because the prime characteristics are a rash or sores occurring on the hands and feet, and in the mouth. HFM is very contagious and is found most often in young children (who frequently have hands and even feet in their mouths), however, anyone can become infected with this virus. The virus is transmitted through person-to-person contact with nasal secretions containing the virus, secretions from a cough or sneeze, contact with the fluid in the blisters, and contact with the saliva or stool of an infected person. The period of onset from infection to when symptoms show is usually about 3-6 days. Although it is so contagious, it is not a serious illness, and usually passes uneventfully. Unfortunately, the virus remains in the body for weeks after the symptoms have passed, and so it can still be passed from person to person. This virus is more predominant during summer and fall months in less tropical areas, so the beginning of the school year is a prime time to be seeing it. Symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- Loss of appetite
- blistery sores/rash in the mouth or gums, on the palms of the hands, and the soles of the feet (generally within 2 days of the fever). Sores are also sometimes found on the buttocks, progress up the wrists, and down the throat.
A visit to the child’s primary care physician is recommended if Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is suspected. Because the disease is transmitted by contact with bodily fluids, strict handwashing, covered sneezes/coughs, disinfecting of surfaces, and avoidance of shared eating utensils (or anything that goes in the mouth) is essential to prevent spread of the disease. Children with Hand, Foot and Mouth disease must stay home until the fever and sores are gone.
If you suspect your child may have Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease, please contact your school nurse and your child’s primary care physician.