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Increased cases of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease reported by several preschools

Increased cases of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease reported by several preschools


According to a statement released by the Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment on Monday 12, 2012,{{more}} they are aware of several cases of the viral illness among preschoolers in certain Early Childhood Centres on St. Vincent.

The statement also said that “Although we do not conduct routine surveillance for this illness because of its limited public health significance, reports from medical practitioners and a limited number of Early Childhood Centres indicate that there has been some increased incidence of illness due to Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease.”

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease, according to the ministry’s statement, is not to be confused with Foot and Mouth Disease which occurs in animals, namely cattle, sheep and swine. There is no relationship between the two diseases and Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is not transmitted from animals to humans.

The virus that causes the disease is spread from person to person by direct contact. According to website the disease commonly affects children under 10 years of age. However, older children and adults are sometimes affected.

The site further stated that the illness often starts with a feeling of being unwell for a day or so. Symptoms include a high temperature, after which a sore throat commonly occurs. This is followed by small spots that develop inside the mouth which soon progress into small mouth ulcers.

Spots also develop on the skin, typically, a day or so after the mouth ulcers develop. The spots are small lumps, a few millimeters in diameter and usually appear on the hands and feet. Spots sometimes also appear on the buttocks, legs and genitals. The spots are similar to chicken pox, but are smaller. They are not usually itchy but can be tender.

The fever and spots usually clear up within a few days. The mouth ulcers which can be painful may last up to a week while the sore mouth may make the child miserable for a few days. In very small number of cases, the virus affects the heart, lung or brain to cause serious inflammation, which is fatal in some cases. These complications, however, are rare.

The site also stated that the incubation period for the illness is three to five days. However, children can still be mildly infectious for several weeks longer as the virus may be passed out with faeces.

When contacted by SEARCHLIGHT, two pre-schools reported that there were no cases of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease there, but that they are monitoring the preschoolers closely and also keeping parents informed about the disease.

One school, however, reported that there were three cases reported in February and that the children were sent home to recuperate. Since then, however, no other cases were reported, and the school assured that parents were are being informed of the disease.

The Ministry of Health stated that while there is no specific treatment for Hand Foot and Mouth Disease, the spread of the virus is best contained by applying hygienic methods such as washing hands with soap and running water, disinfecting surfaces and soiled items, including toys and play areas, and avoiding close contact with ill persons.

The statement issued by the Ministry also advised parents and guardians to contact their health care provider for additional information and advice.

“The Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment will continue to monitor this situation and will apprise the nation accordingly. We take this opportunity to reassure all citizens that it is by and large a benign viral illness which does not cause significant morbidity or mortality…” the statement said.