More than 1,900 children were diagnosed with hand, foot and mouth disease at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC)’s Paediatric Emergency Centres (PEC) between January and June this year, HMC said Saturday.
Coxsackievirus, and the related hand, foot and mouth disease, is a major cause of illness in infants and young children, with incidents of the condition spiking during the summer months, according to a press statement by HMC.
“While coxsackievirus does not generally cause serious illness, it is highly contagious, passing from person to person and remaining on surfaces long enough to spread infection from shared objects and toys. Children infected with the coxsackieviruses may be symptom-free, or they may develop a mild illness characterised by fever and non-specific symptoms,” said Dr Bashir Ali Youssef, senior consultant, Paediatric Emergency, Al Sadd PEC.
Dr Youssef explains that hand, foot, and mouth disease is a mild, contagious viral infection that is most commonly caused by coxsackievirus A. As the name suggests, the condition affects the parts of the body for which it is named, with symptoms including a low-grade fever, generalised weakness, and small red spots and tiny water blisters on the hands and feet, as well as the buttocks and sometimes the genitals.
Children infected with a more severe form of hand, foot, and mouth disease may develop a sore throat, headache, stiff neck and sensitivity to light.
Hand, foot and mouth disease predominately spreads through droplets of saliva that are expelled by infected children and via fecal contamination through infected toys or while changing diapers. Incidents of the virus are more common during the warmer months, with swimming pools and playgrounds being common places where the virus is spread.
Young children under the age of five are primarily affected by hand, foot and mouth disease but it can also be seen in adults.
“Hand, foot and mouth disease is spread through person-to-person contact. It is also spread by the respiratory tract from mouth or respiratory secretions, such as from saliva on hands or toys. The infection is transmitted most easily during the acute phase of illness when people are feeling ill, but the virus can be spread for several weeks after the onset of infection,” said Dr Youssef.
Further, Dr Youssef says the nature by which the virus is spread underscores the importance of good hand hygiene. He says it is important for caregivers to be diligent about good hand hygiene, and to ensure that toys and children’s swimming pools are properly cleaned after each use.
“There is no specific treatment for hand, foot and mouth disease and there is no available vaccine. Depending on the severity of the virus, a topical oral anesthetic may help relieve the pain of mouth sores and over-the-counter pain medication may help relieve general discomfort. It is important for parents to keep infected children at home as the virus is transmitted via close personal contact. With proper care and nutrition, most children will fully recover within seven to ten days,” added Dr Youssef.
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