September 24, 2002
HAND, FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE: IT'S ABOUT KIDS, NOT CATTLE
Hand, foot and mouth disease is a common illness found mainly in children under the age of 10 years, although adults-particularly young adults, can get it, too. It is caused by a virus (coxsackievirus A16) and is not the same thing as foot-and-mouth disease that is found in cattle, sheep, and pigs.
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is usually not a serious disease and nearly all people recover without medical treatment in 7-10 days. Symptoms include fever (usually the first symptom), poor appetite, feeling tired, and a sore throat. One or 2 days after the fever begins, sores or blisters develop in the mouth, usually on the tongue, gums and inside of the cheeks. The skin rash, which may blister, develops over 1-2 days. The rash does not itch and is usually found on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. It may also appear on the buttocks. The fluid in these blisters contains the virus and contact with these fluids can spread the virus to other people.
The disease can also be spread from person-to-person through contact with nose and throat discharges or the stool of infected persons. It is most contagious during the first week of illness. Hand, foot and mouth disease is not spread to or from pets or other animals. The best way to prevent the spread of the disease is frequent handwashing-especially after diaper changes. The good news is that once you have the illness, you will develop immunity to the virus that causes hand, foot and mouth disease.
CD Control Update is a periodic email newsletter on current public health subjects. For more information, call the Mecklenburg County Health Department's Communicable Disease Control offices at 704-336-6438.