Hand, foot, and mouth disease alert!
Westmoreland school administrators, parents urged to be vigilantTuesday, January 11, 2022
WITH the resumption of face-to-face classes, the Westmoreland Health Department is appealing to school administrators and parents to be on the lookout for symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) among children.
The health department said that while there is no outbreak of the disease in the parish, there have been 12 reported cases of the viral illness across eight communities over the past two months.
Cases have been detected at Seaton Crescent, Farm Pen, Chantilly, Hudson Street, Meylers Avenue, and Top Road in Little London, and George's Plain and Shrewsbury in Petersfield. The individuals were diagnosed at health centres across the parish.
In an interview with JIS News, parish health promotion and education officer Gerald Miller said that the contagious viral illness is common in infants and children under five years old but can also be transmitted to older children and adults.
He explained that the disease spreads easily in child care facilities due to frequent diaper changes, and because young children often put their hands in their mouths.
Miller said the health department is being proactive and has placed educational institutions on alert.
“We have been very proactive in alerting our parents, educational institutions and the principals and the development officers who work with the Early Childhood Commission to let them be aware of the presence of hand, foot, and mouth in the parish… and we want our parents, guardians, and teachers to be on the lookout,” he said.
Initial signs of the disease include fever, poor appetite, sore throat, and a feeling of malaise.
These symptoms generally last for one to two days before a blister-like rash appears on the hands, feet, and in the mouth.
The rash initially emerges as small red spots, but then develops into blisters. The blisters may develop on the gums, inner cheeks, and tongue, and patients may complain of mouth pain and a sore throat.
Young children tend to drool and avoid swallowing and may refuse to drink or eat because of the discomfort.
The health promotion and education officer further explained that measures used to reduce the spread of HFMD include frequent washing of hands by both parents and children.
“The prevention methods are similar to what would have been practised to prevent the spread of the [novel] coronavirus (COVID-19). [These include] washing of hands with soap and water after using the toilet, after changing a diaper, before eating and preparing meals, and after handling a sick person, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands,” he outlined.
He advised that children with symptoms of the disease should be sent home immediately and remain out of school for seven days.
Miller is encouraging early childhood school administrators to clean and disinfect toys and high-touch areas regularly.
He also said that several cases of scabies have been detected in the parish, and urged parents and schools to be vigilant as the skin disease is found mostly among children and is spread through close personal contact.
Scabies is an infestation caused by tiny mites, called Sarcoptes scabiei, which settle in the outer layers of human skin then burrow and lay eggs inside the skin.