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Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak

  • Published
  • By Airman Basic Anthony Jennings
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
According to the Centers for Disease Control, Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is a common viral illness of infants and children.

The disease is characterized by blister-like eruptions in the mouth or skin rash. Children below the age of 10 are most susceptible, but it can also occur in adults.

HFMD is often confused with foot-and-mouth (also called hoof-and-mouth) disease, a disease of cattle, sheep and swine; however, the two diseases are not related and are caused by different viruses.

The CDC says the disease is spread from person to person by direct contact. The infectious virus can be found in nose and throat secretions, saliva, blister fluid and stool of infect persons. The virus is most often spread through unwashed, virus-contaminated hands and virus contaminated surfaces.

"Although there is no specific prevention method for the disease, the risks can be significantly lowered by following a good hygiene practice such as frequently and correctly washing your hands," said Master Sgt. Jenna Tolar, 36th Medical Operations Squadron Public Health Clinic non- commissioned officer in charge.

Other practices that could lower risk of infection include disinfecting contaminated surfaces with chlorine bleach solution and avoiding close contact with infected persons.

The disease typically starts with a fever and a vague sense of feeling unwell, accompanied with a sore throat. One or two days after the fever onset, painful sores in the mouth develop. They may begin as small red spots that blister and often become ulcers. The areas of the mouth affected are typically the tongue, gums, and inside of the cheeks.

A non-itchy rash with raised red spots appears on the palms of hands and soles of feet over the next one to two days. In some children, the rash can appear on the buttocks or genitalia. A person with HFMD may have only the rash or only the mouth sores.

The CDC also states that infect persons are most contagious during the first week of illness, but can still spread the disease for a few weeks after symptoms have disappeared.

Rose White, Kiddyland Play and Learn Center director in Dededo, Guam, said she has only noticed one "suspect" case of HFMD among children enrolled in her center and the child has not been back to school since. Ms. White says she has taken it upon herself to implement safe screening measures to reduce the chances of HFMD or any contagious disease from spreading among her students.

"I have in place what we call 'screening.' It's a very quick method of checking each child every morning," said Ms. White, adding she and teachers at her center also check for signs of child abuse.

"We always have a corrective action every day posted at the day care with a list of possible contagious illnesses. The first thing we do is we inform the parents and isolate the kids if we're not sure. We also require a release from the child's doctor saying it's not contagious," Ms. White explained. "The kids, they don't know what's happening or going around. We have to do it; we have to protect them."

The Public Health Clinic encourages anyone showing symptoms of HFMD to schedule an appointment with their health care provider by calling 366-9355(WELL).

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