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April 1, 2014

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Parents told to be on alert for signs of hand, foot and mouth disease

PARENTS should be extra vigilant to the threat of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) as the viral illness has now entered its peak season, a local doctor has said.

“In early March, we were seeing just eight or nine patients a day, but that rose to 25 or 30 from the middle of the month onward,” said Dr Zhou Yunfang, director of the infectious disease department at the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center and a member of the city’s HFMD expert group.

The peak season will run until June, she said.

A highly contagious disease, hand, foot and mouth is spread by direct contact with fluid from blisters, nose and throat discharges, and faeces. It mostly affects children under five and the typical indicators are rashes on the hands and feet, and a fever.

However, Zhou said parents should be alert to any cold-like symptoms, including a loss of appetite or coughing, and should take their children to hospital to be checked if they are in any doubt.

While advising caution, she dismissed the comments made by a doctor in Jiangsu Province who claimed on Sunday that the fact some children were developing HFMD without showing typical symptoms suggested the virus might have mutated.

“There is no laboratory evidence to support that claim,” Zhou said. “Sometimes children have typical symptoms and sometimes they don’t.”

With a full-blown infection, patients develop a non-itchy red rash of spots or small blisters on the hands and feet and might also suffer mouth ulcers.

While most people recover without treatment within a few days, in extreme instances the virus can affect blood circulation, and the nervous and respiratory systems. If it develops into an inflammation of the brain or heart, it can be fatal.

Local woman Jessica Wang said she has kept her 3-year-old son at home for the past two weeks after hearing of an outbreak of hand, foot and mouth at the Baoshan District Hongxing Kindergarten he attends.

“The staff said they will completely disinfect the school and asked parents to keep a close eye on their children for any signs of the disease,” she said.

Last month, two toddlers with links to the Aimiao Care Center in Jinshan District died of HFMD.

The center, which is a kindergarten-like facility used mostly by migrant workers, had earlier been blacklisted over hygiene issues.

Deng Haoxuan, aged two, the son of the center’s head, succumbed to the disease on March 18, and 4-year-old Zhao Hongyun died two days later.


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