Hand-Food-and-Mouth Disease (HFMD) is caused by viruses that belong to the Enterovirus family (Coxsackievirus A16, Coxsackievirus 6, and Enterovirus 71).
Young children have the highest risk for getting HFMD. Children usually build up immunity to the disease after being exposed to the viruses that cause it. This is why the condition rarely affects people over age 10. However, it is still possible for older children and adults to get the infection, especially if they have weakened immune systems.
It has been noted that most of the reported/detected cases affected by HFMD are children below 5 years of age. This may be because little children often put their hands in their mouths. Cases in one community were relatives, playmates and reside in one compound. They were advised to limit their exposure to others but did not isolate or observe prevention measures (wearing of masks, proper handwashing and always wearing slippers especially when outdoors, etc.). Thus, other children were exposed and later on developed symptoms.
The virus can spread to others through an infected person’s nose and throat secretions, such as saliva, drool, or nasal mucus, fluid from blisters or scabs, and feces. Those with HFMD are usually most contagious during the first week that they are sick and can sometimes spread the virus to others for days or weeks after symptoms go away or even if they have no symptoms at all.
Certain precautions can help to reduce the risk of infection with HFMD.
Wash hands carefully. Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, especially after using the toilet and before preparing food and eating.
Disinfect common areas. Get in the habit of cleaning high-traffic areas and surfaces first with soap and water, then with a diluted solution of chlorine bleach and water.
Teach good hygiene. Teach children how to practice good hygiene and how to keep themselves clean. Explain to them why it’s best not to put their fingers, hands or any other objects in their mouths.
Isolate contagious people. Because HFMD is highly contagious, people with the illness should isolate themselves from others while they have active signs and symptoms. Keep children with HFMD out of child or school until fever is gone and mouth sores have healed. Also, some people who are infected and shedding the virus, including most adults, may have no symptoms.
- Provincial Health Office
Some Facts About HFMD
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is often confused with foot-and-mouth disease (also called hoof-and-mouth disease), which affects cows, sheep, and pigs.
Humans do not get the animal disease, and animals do not get the human disease.
You can get hand, foot, and mouth disease by
Contact with respiratory droplets containing virus particles after a sick person coughs or sneezes
Touching an infected person or making other close contact, like kissing, hugging, or sharing cups or eating utensils
Touching an infected person’s feces, such as changing diapers, then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
Touching objects and surfaces that have the virus on them, like doorknobs or toys, then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
Rarely, you can also get the viruses by swallowing recreational water, such as water in swimming pools. This can happen if the water is not properly treated with chlorine and becomes contaminated with feces from a person who has hand, foot, and mouth disease.
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is caused by viruses that belong to the Enterovirus family.
See a healthcare provider if
- Your child is not drinking enough to stay hydrated
- Your child’s fever lasts longer than 3 days
- Your child has a weakened immune system (body’s ability to fight germs and sickness)
- Symptoms are severe
- Symptoms do not improve after 10 days
- Your child is very young, especially younger than 6 months
Most people with HFMD get better on their own in 7 to 10 days.
There is no specific medical treatment for HFMD and there is no vaccine to protect against the viruses that cause hand, foot, and mouth disease.
- US Centers for Disease Control