Jamaican health officials are reporting an outbreak of the viral disease, Hand, Foot And Mouth Disease (HFMD) in at least nine schools, which are being advised to close until the outbreak resolves.

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

The Jamaica Gleaner reports, Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites said, “We are talking about infant schools and basic schools; there are 2,600 of them in Jamaica. Our reports from SERHA (South East Regional Health Authority) is that there is an outbreak in nine of those schools, so it needs to be put in that perspective. What we do know is that it is very contagious and wherever there is an outbreak, the school would be better to suspend classes until the children are better.”

“The Health Department in the respective parishes has been working closely with the schools to minimise the spread of the disease. The schools have also been given guidelines for the management of hand, foot and mouth disease, and public-health inspectors have been deployed to the schools to assess the situations,” noted Tanisha Lewis, public-relations officer at SERHA which is responsible for health facilities in the parishes.

HFMD is typically a benign and self-limiting disease. Most common in young children, it presents as fever, oral lesionsand 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.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is caused by viruses that belong to the Enterovirus genus (group). This group of viruses includes polioviruses, coxsackieviruses, echoviruses, andenteroviruses.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no vaccineto protect against the viruses that cause hand, foot, and mouth disease.

A person can lower their risk of being infected by

  • Washing hands often with soap and water, especially after changing diapers and using the toilet.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and soiled items, including toys.
  • Avoiding close contact such as kissing, hugging, or sharing eating utensils or cups with people with hand, foot, and mouth disease.

Robert Herriman is a microbiologist and the Editor-in-Chief of Outbreak News Today and the Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch

Follow @bactiman63