Just this year, the family of a 17-month old boy was devastated to know that their little angel succumbed to HFMD or hand, foot, and mouth disease. It’s utterly regrettable that a disease common worldwide could have such adverse effects.
I can’t stress enough the need for us to educate ourselves to the causes, symptoms, and prevention of HFMD. This year, it has been found out that the number of cases has reached a new high. According to CNA, there have been 25,000 cases of HFMD recorded for the first 29 weeks of 2018 in Singapore alone. This shows a staggering increase by 28% from last year.
What is HFMD?
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is an infection caused by different types of viruses such as coxsackievirus A16 (CA16) and enterovirus 71 (EV71). It is very common in kids 5 years and below but it can also affect older children and even adults.
For instance, just recently, WWU of Bellingham, Washington was struck by a HFMD outbreak. 5 students have been diagnosed, prompting the school to release an official statement that also served as warning for the students, teachers, and staff of the school.
Common symptoms of this disease include rashes with blisters that are usually found in the hands, feet, and inside the mouth of the child. But there are also cases where they will appear in other parts of the body such as back, all over the arms and legs, face, etc. Fever and sore throat can also be expected.
Fact 1: These highly contagious infections can spread through secretions such as saliva and feces
Is HFMD contagious? Yes. The viruses that cause this disease replicate very easily in the mouth and throat as well as the gastrointestinal tract. This means that there are a lot of viral particles in the saliva and feces of the affected individual. What about the blisters? Contrary to what many of us thought before, blisters aren’t really as effective to support the replication of these viruses. So they’re not considered to be a common origin of transmission.
Fact 2: It can spread through contaminated objects too
I remember back in college the horror of discovering that viruses can practically survive outside its host body. I originally thought that they’ll be hanging on to dear life once they leave the comforts of their victim host. But no, viruses can survive outside. The only thing they won’t be able to do without their host’s help is replicate. But they’re still there, waiting for you to rescue them at the expense of your health and that of your family.
Okay, I might have been carried away there.
But it’s true. This is why your child can be infected by simply holding the contaminated objects, may it be the handle of the seesaw in the park or the toys in the daycare center. That’s why frequent hand washing should be encouraged in our children.
Fact 3: It affects adults too
We’ve mentioned the outbreak in WWU and how it affected adults. Although it is very common in children, we can also be affected. And worse, we could be the ones bringing it to our homes. So stress the importance of proper hygiene not only to your kids but also to the adults in the house.
Fact 4: The virus can linger after the symptoms have disappeared
You may think that because your child’s blisters, fever, sore throat, and overall discomfort have all gone away, it’s safe to send them back to the daycare or school. However, it’s possible that the virus is still residing in your kid. Exposing them to other children will only result to the outbreak you badly wanted to prevent since the moment you knew he had HFMD. Don’t waste all the efforts you’ve done in containing the virus these past two weeks.
Encourage your child not to wipe his runny nose with his bare hands. Always use a hanky. Again, frequent hand washing should be your child’s new habit. Remember that the virus is present not only in their saliva but also in their feces. So make sure that after pooping or changing their diaper, both of you should wash your hands.
If you want to make sure that it’s safe for him to play with the other children, consult your physician.
Fact 5: People can still spread the virus without showing symptoms
Adults can be affected. But this doesn’t mean we’ll always show symptoms. It’s possible that we are already hosting the virus but we’re just not showing the same discomforting effects our child suffers. Little do we know, we are already spreading it.
Fact 6: There’s no treatment available for the disease
Just like most viral infections, HFMD is a self-limiting disease. This means that it will run its course and no treatment can interrupt it. It usually lasts for 7 to 10 days but just as what I’ve mentioned earlier, even if the symptoms are no longer there, the virus can still linger.
To manage the symptoms, you can give your child ibuprofen or acetaminophen as pain relievers. Before you administer other medicines, it’s best that you consult your doctor first.
Fact 7: It is required to report an HFMD case
It is mandatory to report a case of HFMD, either through your physician or directly to your local health department. This is to advise you on the things to do to avoid spreading the virus and to warn everyone to prevent an outbreak.
Trite as it may seem, there’s no better cure than prevention, especially in the case of HFMD. No treatment can stop it. What makes it even scarier is the fact that it’s very common in babies.
Just put in mind the case of the 17-month old baby from Malaysia. That baby boy deserved the world but not even the slightest chance was given to him because of this viral disease. So let’s fight this viral disease together. With awareness, I know we can do it.