Ag. Public Health Communications Specialist
Ministry of Health and Social Development
Telephone: 468-3701 ext. 852 7742
The Ministry of Health and Social Development has issued an alert to residents of the Virgin Islands against the presence of Hand -Foot-and Mouth Disease (HFMD).
The alert has been issued as several cases of the disease have been reported within the last four weeks throughout the Territory. On-going investigations have identified the presence at some child-care centres.
Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease is a usually mild but highly contagious viral infection common in children under 10 years of age. Older children and adults are also vulnerable to contracting the disease which usually occurs throughout the year with a peak occurring from May to July. A smaller peak may also occur from October to December.
The Public Health Division within the Ministry of Health and Social Development is advising parents and day-care staff to be alert for the symptoms of the disease which include fever, sore throat, painful red sores on the tongue, gums and inside the cheeks, rashes on hands, feet and buttocks, irritability in infants and toddlers and loss of appetite or refusal to eat because of discomfort.
The virus that causes the disease can also be passed on by adults, who may not show any signs or symptoms. The virus can be found in an infected person’s saliva, mucus (cold), faeces and in the fluid of their blisters.
These conditions allow for children to become infected from close contact such as kissing, hugging, or sharing cups and eating utensils; being near someone with it who sneezes or coughs; touching unwashed hands; and touching surfaces handled by infected persons who do not wash their hands after sneezing, coughing or using the bathroom.
Persons should also be aware that the risk of infection can be reduced by maintaining strict hand, personal and environmental hygiene. This include washing hands before meals and after using the toilet, after being soiled by secretions (such as sneezing), and regularly cleaning and frequently disinfecting touched surfaces with the recommended concentration of cleaning solution (1 capful bleach to 1 gallon water).
Parents should also be aware that children who are ill should be kept out of school until their fever and rash have subsided and all the vesicles have dried and crusted. This is to prevent the transmission of the infection to other children. The disease is not usually fatal but death can sometimes occur.
For more information or to alert the ministry of possible cases, please contact the Ministry of Health at 468-2274 or Environmental Health at 468-5110.