The news scared me to death.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is a very common viral infection seen in infants and small children less than 10 yrs of age. I had not heard of it until my niece was diagnosed with it. It further frightened me when I read about the spreading lethal virus enterovirus 71 (EV71) in China which causes HFMD. I sent up prayers for my little girl who had recovered from it by then.

HFMD is only seen in children and very rarely in adults with a very weak immunity. The signposts of HFMD are fever, sores in the mouth and non-itchy skin rashes mainly on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. Some of the infected people develop red flat or bumpy spots on their hands, foot and mouth which may turn into blisters. Mouth ulcers are seen in some cases without any rash. Children under five years of age may contract meningitis, encephalitis, pulmonary edema and paralysis as a result of HFMD. The affected children in China suffered damage to their heart, brain and lungs.

HFMD has a counterpart in the animal kingdom called the foot-and-mouth disease seen often in cattle, sheep, and swine. But it does not spread from human to animals or viceversa.

HFMD is highly contagious and spreads through mucus, saliva, blister fluids and feces. The viruses usually remain with their host even for weeks after his recovery.

Since there is no specific cure for HFMD, patients with Hand-foot-and-mouth disease receive only a symptomatic treatment. At the same time, science has not come up with any preventive measure for this type of viral infection. The chances of infection, however, can be lowered by practicing good hygiene.

ยท Wash the hands well with warm water and soap before eating, after using the toilet and changing diapers. Use a disinfectant.

ยท Keep the toys of your children away from getting dirty or soiled. Wash them well with soap once in a while.

ยท Disinfect contaminated areas.

ยท If your child is infected let him remain indoors for a few days until the symptoms have disappeared. If any of his friends or classmates are infected, avoid close contact with that person. In any case, it is not a good practice to kiss infants and children on their face. The best thing is to give a peck on their forehead or avoid kissing cherubs at all. Saliva is the carrier of many infections!

-Aparna K V

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