In 2015, Japan reported a surge in the viral infection, hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD), reporting a whopping 381,581 cases, more than a four-fold increase over 2014.

Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) Image/shawn c
Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD)
Image/shawn c

But things have changed again in Japan as the country reports a dramatic decrease in cases last year. As of Dec. 21, there have been 66,891 HFMD cases reported in 2016.

HFMD is typically a benign and self-limiting disease. Most common in young children, it presents as fever, oral lesions and rash on the hands, feet and buttocks. The oral lesions consist of rapidly-ulcerating vesicles on the buccal mucosa, tongue, palate and gums. The rash consists of papulovesicular lesions on the palms, fingers and soles, which generally persist for seven to 10 days, and maculopapular lesions on the buttocks.

It is spread to others by close personal contact, coughing or sneezing or by contact with contaminated objects and surfaces. It can be difficult to eradicate in schools, group living communities and daycares. Although it is not serious for most people, the infection can cause significant pain while eating, walking and writing.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is caused by viruses that belong to the Enterovirus genus (group). This group of viruses includes polioviruses, coxsackieviruses, echoviruses, and enteroviruses. Coxsackievirus is the most common cause of HFMD.