Hand foot mouth disease (HFMD) is a prevalent issue in Singapore. I’m sure we’ve all had a few days off from school because of an incident and we’ve all definitely seen the anti-HFMD signs that promote being hygienic.
The issue has cooled off somewhat, since there haven’t been any outbreaks in the news. However, HMFD is still an ongoing problem that is just waiting to resurface. Just recently, there were 1,249 cases of HFMD from 29th July to 4th August, according to a report in The Straits Times.
How significant is this? This marks the highest number of HFMD cases recorded in a week for 2018. In comparison, there were only 868 cases during the same period in 2017. This year has had 44 per cent more cases in the same time period.
This is alarming and might be a sign that HFMD might rise again. Therefore, it is important that we nip the issue in the bud to prevent another outbreak.
What Is HFMD?
HFMD is a highly contagious viral infection caused by a group of enteroviruses. Due to a weaker immune system, children below 5 years old are the most susceptible. However, HFMD does affect adults, so even parents of sick children are not in the clear. While most cases of it are only mild and are not life-threatening, there is a type of the virus, EV71, can cause heart and nervous system complications and even death.
It is spread through direct contact with nasal discharge, saliva, faeces and rash fluids of infected people.
During the period in which someone is infected with HFMD, they are very contagious. When the illness resolves, the person becomes much less contagious.
It’s important to know what exactly the HFMD symptoms are so that you can easily identify if you or your child is infected. If not, it might be mistaken for a common illness.
According to the Ministry of Health (MOH), here are the symptoms for both adults and children:
- Sore throat
- Rash (flat or raised red spots) or small blisters on palms of hands, soles of feet, or buttocks
- Mouth ulcers
- Poor appetite
Notably, most of the symptoms listed can also be attributed to regular illness. While it may not be HFMD, it’s best to check with a doctor just to be sure. With how contagious HFMD tends to be, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
However, it is entirely possible for someone infected to not show any symptoms at all, or only some of the symptoms, so be careful.
Thanks to the prevalence of HFMD, HealthHub has come up with a way to fight infectious diseases, aptly named F.I.G.H.T. Recommended ways to prevent an infection are:
- Frequent Hand Washing
Remember to wash your hands with soap and water after using the toilet, and before and after eating.
- Tissues & Masks
Remember to cover your nose and mouth with tissue paper whenever you cough/sneeze, and wear a mask if you feel unwell.
- Avoid Sharing
Don’t share personal items like towels, toothbrushes, utensils and food.
Any appliances or toys that are contaminated by nasal discharge, saliva, faeces and rash fluids of infected people should be disinfected.
Currently, there is no cure or vaccine for HFMD. The body’s immune system will handle it. Aside from allowing the infected person to rest, please take them to a doctor for treatment and medication.
However, there are several ways to make them a little more comfortable when recovering:
- Drink a lot of water
- Change to a soft diet (porridge, etc.) if there are mouth ulcers
- Take medication regularly, as prescribed by the doctor
Here are the steps you need to take while they are recovering:
- Quarantine them for 10 days
While this sounds scary, all this means that you need to keep them home for 10 days and allow them to recover. Remember to keep them away from other people and shared items (books, food, etc.).
- Inform their employer/school
Do inform their employer or school about it, so they can take measures against HFMD, and check for others who may also be infected.
By Muhd Farhan