Public Health Communications Specialist
Ministry of Health/Social Development
The Ministry of Health and Social Development is encouraging parents to remain vigilant as hand foot and mouth disease is on the rise in the Territory.
Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD), is a generally mild disease caused by a group of viruses called Coxsackie Viruses. It mainly affects infants and young children (less than five years old) but can also occur in older children and adults.
National Epidemiologist Ms. Harmonie Massiah reported, “There have been five reported cases in the last four weeks.
According to Ms. Massiah, the disease is spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing, and contact with infected feces through changing a diaper, or touching surfaces or objects which have been contaminated with the virus.
“Symptoms usually begin with a fever, sore throat, reduced appetite and a general feeling of being unwell,” the National Epidemiologist said. She added that within a day or two after the first symptoms, a rash and bumps may appear on the soles of the feet, palms of the hands and inside the mouth. A rash may also develop on the elbows, knees and buttocks. The bumps may blister but do not cause itching.”
Some persons may have the disease, but do not show any symptoms and can still pass the virus on to others. The illness is usually mild and persons usually recover from the disease between seven to ten days.
“We need daycare institutions to adhere to proper hygiene and sanitation practices and sick children should be kept at home until they are well to limit spread of the infection in schools and daycare institutions,” Ms. Massiah stated.
There is no specific treatment for HFMD, but symptoms can be treated to provide relief. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used to manage the fever and pain. Persons with the virus need to drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration. Cold liquids are usually preferable. Spicy and acidic foods should be avoided as they may cause discomfort.
To reduce the risk of getting infected with HFMD and prevent the spread of the virus, parents and care workers are encouraged to wash hands often with soap and water, especially after changing diapers. Adults should help young children do the same.
Persons should avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Disinfect surfaces and objects, such as toys and doorknobs. Persons should also avoid close contact such as hugging, kissing and sharing eating utensils with persons who have HFMD.
The Ministry of Health and Social Development is committed to improving the health of the people of the Virgin Islands.