Hand Foot Mouth Virus

Hand Foot and Mouth Virus

coxacle virus

Infected child

Hand-foot-mouth disease virus belongs to the Picornavirus or Picornaviridae family, which literally means “small RNA virus”.  Hand-foot-mouth disease virus is a non-enveloped with an icosahedral capsid, positive-stranded RNA (ribonucleic acid genome) virus that contains a protein on the 5’ end that is used as a primer transcription for RNA polymerase.

There are two common virus strains causing hand-foot-mouth disease among humans. The first is the Coxsackie A Virus. Like the rest of the non-enveloped, linear, positive RNA virus belonging to the Picornaviridae family, this hand-foot-mouth disease virus is one of the most common human pathogens in the environment. Coxsackievirus is divided into two groups: Group A, which causes flaccid paralysis, and Group B, which causes spastic paralysis that is mainly due to focal muscle injury and degeneration of the neuronal tissue. Group A of the Coxsackie virus causes hand-foot-mouth disease.

Coxsackie A hand-foot-mouth disease virus is usually transmitted by a fecal-oral route in less hygienic places. This hand-foot-mouth disease virus also shares the same characteristics of a poliovirus. This hand-foot-mouth disease virus has been known as the leading cause of aseptic or viral meningitis. Although symptoms manifested from this hand-foot-mouth disease virus strain are mild and eventually clears out without getting hospitalized, preventive measures must still be taken into account.


Sick Child

The second hand-foot-mouth disease virus strain and the more fatal of the two is the Enterovirus 71 or EV-71. This hand-foot-mouth disease virus strain is notable for causing epidemics resulting to severe neurological diseases in children like pulmonary edema, pulmonary hemorrhage, encephalitis, acute flaccid paralysis and meningitis. This hand-foot-mouth disease virus strain causes diarrhea, rashes, painful sores and blisters. It is also known to attack the central nervous system of those suffering various immune deficiencies. Experimental vaccines are currently under development, but there is still no definite antiviral agent or vaccine that can prevent and treat individuals infected with this hand-foot-mouth disease virus type.

Although caused by a virus from the same Picornaviridae family, hand-foot-mouth disease is different from foot and mouth disease (also called hoof and mouth disease) that is common swine, cattle, sheep and other animals. The hand-foot-mouth disease causing virus is transmitted from person to person and cannot be from pet to person.

hand foot mouth disease

hand foot mouth disease pictures

Transmission of hand-foot-mouth disease virus is mostly from blister liquid, saliva and other throat secretions, nasal mucus and feces and is common in kindergartens or nursery schools since most of the hand-foot-mouth disease infected individuals are typically children ages ten and below.

The hand-foot-mouth disease virus is at its peak potency during the usual incubation period of three to seven days. The virus causes initial symptoms like fever, headache and sore throat to hand-foot-mouth disease infected individuals. Other signs and symptoms that are caused by hand-foot-mouth disease virus are diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, painful oral lesions, oral ulcers, body rashes, irritability among infants and toddlers, malaise (discomfort), fatigue or weakness, sores and blisters in the mouth, nose and/or nostrils, soles of feet, palms of hands and buttocks (due to diarrhea).

Although there are numerous symptoms caused by the hand-foot-mouth disease virus, some patients virtually do not manifest any and appear well. However, transmission of the hand-foot-mouth disease virus is still possible after weeks of recuperating. The hand-foot-mouth disease virus remains in the patient’s body for a month or more, depending on the severity of the infection.

hand foot mouth disease

Child infected with HFMD

Just like with other viral diseases, hand-foot-mouth disease virus infected patients may also be hospitalized because of complications when remained untreated on its early stages. There are several outbreaks where hand-foot-mouth disease virus led to deaths among children, including infants and toddlers. Reported severe complications of the hand-foot-mouth disease virus, notably with Enterovirus 71 or EV-71, are encephalitis or swelling of the brain, leading to a polio-like paralysis and can eventually cause death. Less severe complications caused by the hand-foot-mouth disease virus are loss of toenail and fingernail among children within a period of four weeks upon infection. This was subsequently diagnosed as temporary and growth has resumed after treatment. In the case of Coxsackie A hand-foot-mouth disease virus infection, viral or aseptic meningitis can be a possible complication. Viral meningitis can cause back pains, stiff neck, headaches and fever.

Patients experiencing severe hand-foot-mouth disease related symptoms and complications are immediately hospitalized to control the virus from spreading and treat the infection. Several preventive measures must also be taken to avoid getting infected with hand-foot-mouth disease virus. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC recommends frequent hand-washing, use of hand sanitizers when in publics, refraining from touching the nose, mouth, eyes and ears in public without sanitizing the hands and maintaining proper hygiene – especially potty hygiene – to ensure prevention and good health.

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