By NewsDesk @infectiousdiseasenews
Queensland Health recently urged parents to watch out for Hand, Foot and Mouth disease (HFMD) following dozens of cases that have been identified in the Far North.
There have been more than 60 presentations of HFMD to Cairns Hospital’s Emergency Department during the first two months of the year, including 9 patient admissions.
Tropical Public Health Services Cairns public health medical officer, Dr Annie Preston-Thomas, said the team was aware of at least 15 day-care centres affected by the disease across the Cairns and Tablelands regions since early January.
“HFMD is a viral illness common in children,” she said.
“We are currently investigating why and how this virus is circulating in our region, but it is commonly linked to warm weather.
“There is a rising global incidence of HFMD, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.
“We usually see a small number of cases during our hotter parts of the year, but this year has been especially severe.”
HFMD is usually a mild illness that occurs mainly in young children but can also affect older children and adults.
It is caused by several different enteroviruses.
People can be infected with these viruses but not develop symptoms of the disease.
Outbreaks of HFMD can occur among groups of children, including in childcare centres.
Dr Preston-Thomas said the disease usually began with a mild fever and a runny nose.
“This is followed by a sore throat and mouth, with the appearance of blisters in the mouth, and on hands and feet,” she said.
“Sometimes blisters may also be seen on knees, elbows or in the nappy area.
“The blisters usually last for 3-5 days.”
She said in rare cases, those infected with HFMD go on to develop neurological disease such as meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain), encephalitis (inflammation of the brain itself), or paralysis.
“Any person with consistent symptoms should not attend day care or school until they are symptom-free, and all blisters have completely dried,” she said.
“To prevent the disease spreading, ensure you practice good hand hygiene; clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and soiled items, including toys; avoid sharing cups, eating utensils, towels, and clothing; and teach children about cough and sneeze etiquette.”
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