HFM Best Defense

Hand Foot and Mouth Disease: Information And Education Is The Best Defense

Hand foot and mouth (HFM) disease is a very common disease. It is easy to diagnose and it is easy to cure. Medication is readily available and effective. But, the most important defence against this disease is none other than information and education regarding this disease. Hand foot and mouth (HFM) disease is a viral infection and like other viral infections it exhibits certain symptoms. The symptoms are visible, clear and easy to detect. This viral infection is often characterized by fever and a peculiar rash on the palms of the hands, inside the mouth and on the soles of the feet.  If someone has a fever with the corresponding rashes, then it may be hand foot and mouth disease. This viral infection should not be confused with the foot and mouth disease (or hoof and mouth disease), that affects swine, cattle and sheep.

This disease is termed “an illness of the spring and fall season.”  The underlying reason is that this disease shows itself in these times of the year. This illness does not show itself during the winter months but before and after winter. The clear signs of the disease is an initial mild fever (about 101F to 102F) followed by a peculiar rash within one or two days. The rashes exhibit themselves as small red spots (around 2 mm to 3 mm) that later develop into blisters. The blisters will affect the palms, soles and even the oral cavity. There will also be lesion on the foot including the lower calf region. The lesions on the oral cavity will cause sore throat and affect the appetite. When these are present you are absolutely sure the person has hand foot mouth disease.

Hand foot and mouth disease is basically a disease that affects children 10 years of age or less. Adults who have been exposed to the virus during childhood develop a natural immunity and rarely get infected with the virus. There is little evidence that this disease affects the fetus during pregnancy. Women who are pregnant may be fearful of contracting the disease and affecting their babies. They must take precautions, however. Pregnant women should, refrain from getting near persons who are infected. The incubation period of the virus is about a week and you can get infected with someone who has not even displayed the symptoms of the disease. The illness does not cause congenital defects in fetus nor does it cause spontaneous abortion. However, if the mother displays active HFM symptoms, the risk of neonatal infection is high. The newborn infant may develop a mild illness.

Hand food and mouth disease is caused by a virus of the enterovirus family. The most common cause is a virus called Coxsakei virus A-16. In other infections although this is rare, the enterovirus 71 is the cause. HFM is spread from one person to another by direct contact (Coxsakei virus A-16 or the uncommon enterovirus 71). Since the virus resides in the nasal and throat regions direct contact with an infected person will spread the illness easily. The blister fluid or the stool of an infected person can also become an avenue of transmission. One concern that you must be aware of is the incubation period and the lifespan of the virus. The incubation period is about one week but the virus can remain in the intestinal tract or in the respiratory tract for a weeks to a few months after all the symptoms are gone.

When it comes to this kind of viral illness, prevention through information and education may yet be the best defence against this illness. The things to remember can be summarized in the following manner: 1) Watch out for the symptoms – it is usually fever followed by rashes after one or two days on the palms, food and mouth cavity, followed by blisters; 2) Bring the infection person to the doctor immediately – immediate medical attention matters. The infected person can be administered the proper medicine and the progress monitored by the attending physician; 3) Avoid having physical contact with the infected person – the virus is transmitted through the saliva and bodily fluids. You must take precautions when talking with the person or getting near to the person. Covering your mouth and refraining from touching can be helpful; 4) Remember that the incubation period and the life span of the virus –it has a one week incubation but can linger for weeks to months in the intestinal track or respiratory track. These things are important when it comes to hand foot mouth disease.

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