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Communicable Diseases Links

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Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

This page was reviewed or revised on Friday, October 14, 2011 2:52 PM

What is hand, foot and mouth disease?

Hand, foot and mouth disease is an infection caused by a virus. The disease affects mostly children under 10 years of age, but can happen at any age. Outbreaks are common in the summer and early fall.

Symptoms include:

  • Mild fever
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lack of energy
  • Discomfort
  • Sore throat
  • Painful sores in mouth (after fever)
  • Non-itchy skin rash has flat or raised red spots, sometimes with blisters

Rash may appear on:

  • Palms of hands or fingers
  • Soles of feet or on toes
  • Buttocks or genitals

How is it spread?

The disease is spread person-to-person by direct contact with the virus. The virus is found in the nose and throat discharge, saliva, blister fluid, and stool of infected persons. It can be spread by coughing and sneezing. It is not spread from animal to people.

It takes 3-5 days for symptoms to show. The disease is contagious until the sores are healed. The virus may be present in the stool for several weeks.

An infected person is most contagious during the first week of illness.

What are the risks to pregnant women?

There is no evidence it will cause any adverse problems during pregnancy. However, mothers infected shortly before delivery may pass the virus to the newborn.

Treatment and prevention

There is no treatment, other than relief of symptoms. Most recover within 7-10 days. Complications are not common.

There is no vaccine to prevent the disease.

The risk of infection can be reduced by using good hygiene practices:

  • Frequent hand washing
  • Proper disposal of contaminated tissues
  • Disinfect all surfaces and items contaminated with stool, nose and/or throat discharge.
  • Avoid close contact (kissing, hugging, sharing utensils, etc.) with affected person

A child-care centre or health-care facility with the disease should increase cleaning schedules.

To mix a cleaning solution, use household bleach, and mix 100 ml (7 tablespoons) household bleach to 5000 ml (20 cups) of water.

Bleach should be used after the surface is cleaned with soap and water.

Getting better

Stay home when you are sick.

Children, who are in group settings, should stay home if they are not well enough to participate. Staying home may reduce the spread of the infection, but will not completely stop it.

Children, who feel well enough to participate in activities, can return to childcare or school, even if they still have the rash. There is no reason they cannot attend.

For more information contact Community Health Services Department at 519 383-8331 or toll free 1-800-667-1839.

Fact Sheet revised: May 5, 2010

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