Outbreak! — Beware of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

Painful disease is on the rise; here's how to protect yourself

Not only does it sound like an awful virus to contract, it can be incredibly painful. And it is very easily spread.

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Pockets of the country right now are experiencing outbreaks of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFM or HFMD). College campuses, day care centers, school districts, and entire communities are trying to educate families about HFM so they might prevent further spread of the virus.

“HFM disease is very common in children,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior associate professor and clinical assistant professor at the Center for Health Security at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “In recent months, however, we have been seeing adults infected as well, perhaps because they avoided infection during childhood.”

The disease often appears small and insignificant at first — but it doesn’t take long for bigger problems to emerge.

A young mom in Arkansas, Jennifer Trafford-Hines, told TVH11 in Little Rock that she noticed what looked like a bad diaper rash on her daughter one night during her bath. It quickly got worse and was confirmed to be hand, foot and mouth disease contracted from her day care center.

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Her daughter would get it two more times before spreading it to another daughter and the rest of the family.

Related: Take Meningitis Seriously, Students

Usual early signs of the disease are mouth lesions, rashes, blisters — including water blisters or red spots on the palms, feet, and on and around their mouth. Coughing, sore throat, and fatigue are other signs, along with a low-grade fever of between 100 degrees and 102 degrees.

Because it’s a virus, antibiotics and topical creams don’t help much, and there’s really little that can be done to treat or prevent the illness other than practicing good hygiene. Wash your hands often with soap and water; clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and items like toys; and avoid close contact and sharing utensils with infected individuals.

There is some good news, Adalja told LifeZette: Flu activity remains low across the nation at this time, and “the strains of the virus included in this year’s vaccine appear to be well-matched to what is circulating this season thus far.”

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