Hand foot and mouth disease is common, but easily transmissible
Cases of hand, foot and mouth disease have been popping up in York County. But that’s just one of several contagious diseases parents should watch for as school starts Aug. 20.
Parents also should also be mindful of pink eye, respiratory infections and other illnesses that are easily transmitted in a school setting, said Dr. Arash Poursina, infectious disease specialist for Piedmont Medical Center.
“As school starts, we do usually see a spike in the number of upper respiratory infections,” he said.
Piedmont Medical Center has treated 24 cases of hand, foot and mouth disease so far this year, said Daisy Burroughs, hospital spokesperson. In 2017, Piedmont treated a total of 27 cases.
“It is highly likely that the total case count will pass the 2017 total as we head into the fall season,” Burroughs said in an e-mail to The Herald.
The North Central Family Medical Center in Rock Hill has diagnosed one patient with the disease this year, said spokesperson Ernest Brown.
Cases of hand, foot and mouth disease are not required to be reported to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control so numbers of individual cases are not available.
“There is currently no indication of any particular community experiencing an unexpected number of outbreaks,” according to a DHEC statement.
Hand, foot and mouth disease is a viral illness that typically affects children younger than 5 years old, but also can infect adults and older children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Signs of hand, foot and mouth disease include fever, reduced appetite, sore throat and a general feeling of being unwell, according to the CDC. The disease also may be marked by painful sores in the mouth, a skin rash on hands and feet or knees or elbows.
Not everyone with hand, foot and mouth disease experiences symptoms, but they still may be contagious.
Hand washing and avoiding close contact with people who have hand, foot and mouth disease are ways to limit the risk of infection. Poursina said parents should teach their children proper hand washing and hygiene.
Also, guardians should not send ill children to school.
Children with illnesses such as hand, foot and mouth disease and any that cause vomiting are at a risk for dehydration, Poursina said. Parents should ensure their child is eating and drinking.
“Kids tend to get dehydrated much faster than adults,” he said.
Parents also should be mindful of West Nile Virus, and use insect repellant on their children when outside, Poursina said. There were several cases of West Nile in the York County area last fall.
Children also should have up-to-date vaccinations, which follow the guidelines set by the CDC, Poursina said.
“Unfortunately, there has been misunderstanding among the general public and parents. There are actually kids out there who have missed some of their vaccinations,” he said. “They put the rest of the kids at school at risk because they can get and transmit the disease. Many of the diseases that have become rare in the past now are making a comeback.”