Saturday, July 21, 2012

Philippines - DOH issues update on HFMD reports

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Health (DOH) said Thursday that hospitals continue to report suspected cases of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD).

The DOH, however, clarified that hospitals have been reporting HFMD cases because of its instructions and "not because of an outbreak."

Health Secretary Enrique T. Ona had earlier instructed the DOH National Epidemiology Center to include Enterovirus 71 (EV-71) as a notifiable disease "to compel health providers, especially health physicians, to report individual cases or even outbreaks."
What causes HFMD?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), HFMD is caused by viruses from the group called enteroviruses. They may be polioviruses, coxsackieviruses, echoviruses and other enteroviruses.

"HFMD is most commonly caused by coxsackievirus A16 which usually results in a mild self-limiting disease with few complications. However, HFMD is also caused by Enteroviruses, including EV-71which has been associated with serious complications, and may be fatal," the WHO said.

The DOH said that HFMD is moderately contagious and spreads through fecal-oral route and from direct contact with secretions from infected person. It is different from the foot and mouth disease in animals.

HFMD commonly affects young children. Its symptoms include mild illness characterized by a few days of fever and appearance of skin rashes or lesions around mouth, hands and feet.

"Severe Enterovirus-71 infections can cause severe neurological disease most recently described in Cambodia, where dozens of children died suddenly despite all efforts provided by hospitals,"  the DOH said.

How to prevent the spread of EV-71

The DOH has encouraged parents and day-care personnel to clean and disinfect toys and teaching tools to prevent the spread of EV-71 among children.

It had likewise advised the public to properly dispose of baby diapers or human waste and practice strict personal hygiene and regular hand-washing.

The DOH said that HFMD outbreaks in several Asian countries have made it an "emerging threat following the almost complete eradication of polio."

Unlike polio, however, there are still no available vaccines against EV-71 infections.

The DOH added that throat specimens from suspected cases are sent to the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine to confirm the presence or absence of the virus.

The National Epidemiology Center was tasked to collect reports from hospitals then report them as part of the Disease Surveillance System.

"Mild cases are seldom hospitalized except for dehydration that occurs when sick child are unable to feed because of mouth sores. Parents should watch out for warning signs such as muscle twitching, paralysis, impaired consciousness as these will require taking care of affected children in hospital setting," the DOH said.

The DOH had reported that two children have been tested positive for enterovirus, but clarified that they were not afflicted with the deadly EV-71 strain.

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