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And all the while we are thinking about anthrax....
Thu, October 25, 2001
Hand, foot and mouth disease cropping up
Trish Choate, , Times Record News
At least a few cases of hand, foot and mouth disease have cropped up in North Texas, sidelining schoolchildren for a week or two, officials said.
And no, it's not related to the animal illness with a similar name.
Several viruses trigger hand, foot and mouth disease, usually summer's end and fall's beginning, physicians said.
"Just take care of the fever and the pain. And just as it came, it goes away," said Dr. Rodrigo Menchaca, emergency room physician at United Regional Health Care System. "It's just a viral illness that has skin manifestations."
To cap the spread, kids and babies with it must sit out childcare programs, schools and other places with groups for a few days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the illness is not even remotely similar to foot and mouth disease, a serious sickness of pigs, sheep, goats, cows and other animals. Humans rarely contract foot and mouth disease. If they do, it's usually minor.
The same is true of hand, foot and mouth disease, which is common in babies and children, according to the CDC. Symptoms are fever, mouth sores and a blister-ridden rash. A day or two after fever sets in, sores pop up on the tongue, gums and inside of cheeks. A rash of flat or raised reddish spots invades the skin, usually palms of hands and soles of feet. But a sufferer of hand, foot and mouth might only develop a rash or only mouth sores.
"It sounds crazy, but it's one of the nicer ones to see because it's one of those ones where you have somebody that's sick, and you know exactly what's going on," said Dr. Scott Williamson, a family-practice physician.
In most cases, kids recover in seven to 10 days without ever seeing a physician, according to the CDC.
"Sometimes the kids get so many sores in their mouths, they might require admission for rehydration," Williamson said.
The illness is as contagious as any cold or virus, he said. Hand, foot and mouth disease travels out through the respiratory tract, such as during coughing. But the viruses can live long enough on blankets and countertops to catch hosts through them. People succumb three to six days after exposure.
Hand, foot and mouth disease preys on young children more often, Williamson said. Most people are immune to it by the time they become adults. Typically, a person doesn't contract the same strain of it twice but can become ill from a different strain.
A specific treatment isn't available for it, according to the CDC. Symptoms of fever and pain are treated. To avoid the disease, children and adults should wash hands often and should clean dirty clothes. Adults should disinfect contaminated surfaces with, for instance, a mixture of a gallon of water and a capful of bleach with chlorine.
Medical Writer Trish Choate can be reached at (940) 763-7597 or with e-mail at email@example.com.
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