Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is a human syndrome caused by intestinal viruses of the Picornaviridae family, the most common strain are Coxsackie A virus and Enterovirus 71.  This disease usually affects infants and children; it is moderately contagious and spreads by direct contact with saliva, mucus, or feces of an infected person. 

Meanwhile, HFMD is extremely uncommon in adults, but it is still a possibility.  Most adults have immune systems that are strong enough to defeat the virus, but those with immune deficiencies are prone to getting infected.  HFMD should not be confused with foot-and-mouth disease, which affects sheep, cattle, and pigs.

Different epidemics of HFMD have occurred throughout the world, but only affecting a specific area and lasts for several months.  In 2008 alone, reports of HFMD outbreaks were reported in China, Singapore, Vietnam, and Mongolia, with a total of over 30,000 cases of infection.

Symptoms of HFMD

Symptoms of HFMD include fever, headache, vomiting, fatigue, sore throat, painful oral lesions, non-itchy body rash, sores on palms and soles, oral ulcer, irritability, loss of appetite, and diarrhea.  These symptoms manifest between three to seven days from the time of infection.

How to treat HFMD?

HFMD has no specific treatment.  Individual symptoms like fever and pain from sores can be eased with medication.  Lukewarm baths can also help bring the temperature down. 

Because HFMD is a viral disease, patients tend to let the virus run its course until the disease is completely gone.  Many doctors do not issue medication for this illness, unless the infection is severe.

Infection among older children, adolescents, and adults occur very mildly and lasts about a week or more.  Only a few number of patients require hospital care, especially those who suffer from neurological complications.