Hand washing essential to prevent spread of contagious diseases
August 15 2017 10:18 PM
Dr Khalid al-Ansari
Dr Khalid al-Ansari


Washing hands often with soap and water, especially after changing diapers and using the toilet,will help prevent the spread of contagious diseases such as hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) a physician from Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), has advised.

About 3500 children are diagnosed with HFMD in Qatar annually.

“Hand, foot and mouth disease is common in children but can also occur in adults. It can occur at any time of year but is most common in the summer and fall. In Qatar, we tend to see an increase in cases during the colder months. We see around 3,500 children diagnosed with the disease annually,” said Dr Khalid al-Ansari, director, Paediatric Emergency Services, HMC.

“While health complications from HFMD are not common, viral or ‘aseptic’ meningitis can occur with the disease. However, this is rare. It can cause fever, headache, stiff neck or back pain and may require the infected person to be hospitalized for a few days,” said Dr al-Ansari.

He maintained that cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and soiled items, including toys, as well as avoiding close contacts such as kissing, hugging, or sharing eating utensils or cups with people who have HFMD, will go a long way in preventing the spread of the disease.

“Hand, foot and mouth disease usually starts with a fever, poor appetite, a vague feeling of being sick and a sore throat. Symptoms of the disease include a high temperature, blister-like sores in the mouth and a skin rash. The rash is usually on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet; it may also appear elsewhere on the limbs and buttocks,” he explained.

The official noted that some people, especially young children, may become dehydrated if they are not able to swallow enough liquids because of painful mouth sores, adding that not everyone will get all of these symptoms. “Some people, especially adults, may show no symptoms at all, but they can still pass the virus to others,” he cautioned.

According to Dr al-Ansari there is no vaccine to protect against the viruses that cause HFMD. However, good hand washing habits, especially by children, can help prevent the spread of the disease.

There is also no specific antiviral therapy available to treat HFMD. “The condition is self-limiting and usually passes within seven days. Treatment is mainly supportive. If parents have questions about the condition, they should contact their doctor,” he added.

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