Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) is endemic in Malaysia and occur throughout the year, and follows a ‘cyclical’ trend that peaks every three years, officials from the Ministry of Health said.

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

During the first full week of June, health officials note (computer translated) that the number of HFMD cases reported nationwide that week was 1,379 cases, an increase of 83 cases (6.4%) compared to the previous week (1,296 cases).

In May, the health ministry reported the number of cases exceeded the “threshold” of 644 cases per week, prompting an alert to be issued.

In Malaysia, Selangor contributed the highest number of cases to date compared to other states that 4,441 cases (32.6%), followed by Johor 1,393 cases (10.2%), Kuala Lumpur (WPKL) 1,317 cases (9.7%), Sabah 1,299 cases (9.5%) and Sarawak 1,108 cases (8.1%).

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.

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 A16 is the most common cause of hand, foot, and mouth disease in the United States, but other coxsackieviruses have been associated with the illness.
  • Enterovirus 71 has also been associated with hand, foot, and mouth disease and outbreaks of this disease.

EV-71 has been implicated in HFMD outbreaks in Southeast Asia over the several years. EV 71 is a non-polio enterovirus.

Complications associated with HFMD caused by the more pathogenic EV-71 strain include encephalitis, aseptic meningitis, acute flaccid paralysis, pulmonary edema or hemorrhage and myocarditis. Most deaths in HFMD occur as a result of pulmonary edema or hemorrhage.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no vaccine toprotect againstthe 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.