Monday, July 16, 2012

World - Why is hand, foot and mouth disease killing children?

Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is a viral illness most commonly seen in children under age 11, in the United States. In the U.S., cases peak from spring through fall. It is a mild illness, with fever, mouth sores and a blistering rash. Yet, the same illness in Asia has killed hundreds so far this year.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a catch-all name for illnesses caused by a number of viruses. In the United States, it is typically caused by coxsackie virus A16 and enterovirus 71 . Other, related viruses can also produce the HFMD, which means that patients can catch the disease more than once through different viral infections.

The coxsackie virus A16 version of hand, foot and mouth disease is the mildest. Patients can recover in seven to ten days and some patients have no symptoms at all. On rare occasions, the virus can produce severe or life threatening HFMD, including encephalitis. There is no vaccine and treatment is supportive, fever and pain reduction medication and hydration.

Enterovirus 71 is the primary cause of hand, foot, and mouth disease in East and Southeast Asia. The vast majority of those infected recover without incident but the rate of serious and fatal outcomes is much higher with this virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) states:

HFMD caused by EV71 has been associated with meningitis and encephalitis, and on occasion can cause severe complications, including neurological, cardiovascular and respiratory problems. Cases of fatal EV71 encephalitis have occurred during outbreaks.

AFP is reporting today that the public health authorities in Hunan Province, China, are urging parents to seek care for children with hand, foot, and mouth disease. The authorities are reporting 112 deaths last month from the illness. The number of cases continues to increase.

WHO data shows that 890,000 cases of HFMD were reported by China in the first five months of the year. 244 deaths related to these illness have been noted through the end of May. China's case count is more than double the number of HFMD cases for the same five months in 2011.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is not one of the illnesses that are reportable to the CDC by law. HFMD is moderately contagious and is spread through contact with the sores, and nose and throat secretions. The CDC stresses prevention, especially handwashing, as well as proper disinfection of exposed surfaces including toys.

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