Image via Flickr user Alex Proimos
Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) has hit epidemic levels in Singapore, with over three times as many cases in the first 18 weeks of 2012, as compared to the same period in 2011.
What is HFMD?
HFMD is an illness caused by intestinal viruses, with the commonest being Coxsackie virus and Enterovirus 71. While most cases of HFMD are mild and self-resolving, serious complications involving the nervous system, lungs and heart can occasionally occur, although quite rarely. Such complications are usually due to the Enterovirus 71 strain.
Who gets affected?
Both adults and children can be affected but the younger ones, particularly those under the age of five, are most susceptible.
What are the symptoms?
A person with HFMD usually has the following symptoms:
• Sore throat
• Rash (flat or raised red spots) or small blisters on the palms of hands, soles of feet, or buttocks
• Ulcers on the inside of the mouth or sides of the tongue
• Poor appetite
Don’t confuse HFMD with…
Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), sometimes called hoof-and-mouth disease, which is a disease in cattle, sheep, and swine. The two are caused by different viruses and are not related. Humans do not get the animal disease, and animals do not get the human disease.
How is HFMD spread?
The virus is spread from person to person by direct contact with the nasal discharge, saliva, and fluid from inside the blisters of an infected person, and can also linger in faeces for up to several weeks after infection.
Minimise the risk of HFMD transmission
• Wash the hands with soap before eating and after going to the toilet
• Cover the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and throw the tissue away immediately
• Clean and disinfect toys or appliances which are contaminated by nasal or oral secretions thoroughly
• Do not share toothbrushes, towels, or rinsing mugs
• Do not share eating utensils, drinking straws, food or drinks
When should I bring my child to the doctor?
The Ministry of Health (MOH) advises parents to consult a doctor early if your child shows symptoms of HFMD. Also be alert to any change in your child’s normal behaviour. Should they refuse to eat or drink to extremes, have persistent vomiting or drowsiness, bring them immediately to the A&E Departments of either NUH or KKH, whichever is closer to your home.
by Mandy Lim
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