Outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease in several schools
The Ministry of Education is reporting that there is now an outbreak of the hand, foot and mouth disease in several schools.
The schools include the Bridgeport Infant and the Reliance Basic schools in Portmore, St Catherine which have been ordered closed.
The Ministry of Health says it has provided guidelines for the management of this virus in educational institutions.
About hand, foot and mouth disease
- Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is a common childhood illness caused by a coxsackie virus.
- The illness most often occurs in the months occurring in spring and fall and is most frequently seen in young children, infants, and toddlers.
- It is characterised by fever and a blister-like rash affecting the palms of the hands and soles of the feet along with blisters inside the mouth.
- Children usually become infected with the virus from other children in an oral-faecal pattern; that is, from exposure to oral secretions (nasal discharge, saliva, etc.) or to stool.
- It typically occurs in small epidemics in nursery schools or kindergartens, usually during the summer and autumn months.
Symptoms and Signs
- Hand, foot, and mouth disease usually occurs in the spring and fall seasons but may occur at any time during the year.
- The initial symptoms include fever and general malaise (poor appetite, aches and pains, e.tc).
- These symptoms generally last one to two days before a blister-like rash develop on the hands, feet, and in the mouth.
- The rash initially appears as small red spots but then develops into vesicles (blisters).
- The blisters may develop on the gums, inner cheeks, and tongue and patients may complain of mouth pain and a sore throat.
- These young patients tend to drool and avoid swallowing and may refuse to drink or eat because of the discomfort.
- Very young infants may even become dehydrated due to the refusal to drink.
When to Seek Medical Care
- Any high fever in a very young infant should be evaluated by a health-care practitioner.
- For older infants and children, as long as the child has adequate oral intake, this particular illness can be managed comfortably at home.
Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease Treatment
- There is no specific treatment for Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease.
- Supportive care, including fever management, and prevention of dehydration are the primary goals.
- Please note that prolonged elevated temperatures in children, signs or symptoms of dehydration (dry skin and mucous membranes, weight loss, persistent irritability, lethargy, or decreased urine output), are indications that immediate medical attention should be sought.
Methods of control
- Appropriate infection control practices are recommended to prevent the spread of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease.
- Preventive measures include limiting person to person contact and promote hand washing and other hygienic measures.
- Children infected with the virus causing Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease generally have mild illness and recover within one week of developing symptoms.
Infection Control Practices
- Suspected cases should be immediately separated from the general school population and sent home on identification.
- Frequent disinfection of schools is especially important in order to prevent the spread of this disease.
- Schools should regularly clean all areas and items that are more likely to have frequent hand contact (for example, taps, toys, keyboards, door handles or desks) and also clean these areas immediately when visibly handled by ill persons.
- Common commercial disinfection agents should be used and the package directions adhered to.
- The Ministry of Health recommends 5% bleach (which is commonly sold commercially) diluted 1 part bleach to 10 parts water.
School officials should contact their Parish Health Department for additional guidance.
Schools should ensure that custodial staff and others (such as classroom teachers) who use cleaners or disinfectants understand their safe and appropriate use.
- The Parish Health Department should be notified if there is any increase in the number of cases of Hand, Foot and Mouth disease at the institution (day care, schools, etc.).
- These cases should be line listed as identified.