Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a common childhood ailment that affects children under the age of five. The most common symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease are blisters in the mouth, a rash on the skin, and a fever. The disease is caused by an enterovirus. Hand, foot, and mouth disease is often confused with foot and mouth disease, or hoof in mouth disease, but the two illnesses are very different with hoof and mouth disease only occurring in cattle and sheep.
Spread of Disease
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is spread through the fluids of an infected person. Saliva, nasal drips, and feces may all contain the virus. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, the saliva may go into the air and infect healthy people. The virus may be spread from young children to adults when proper precautions are not taken when changing the diaper of an infected infant or toddler. In some cases, it may be possible to contract hand, foot, and mouth disease by coming into contact with recreational water that has been contaminated with feces, as with pools that have not been properly chlorinated.
Contagious Nature of Disease
The disease is most contagious during the first week it is acquired. However, the illness may continue to be contagious after symptoms subside. Some people that are infected may not show any symptoms, but may still be contagious. This is especially common in adults. To be safe, children and adults that have been in contact with the virus should stay home from work, school, or child care until a physician says that the contagious period is over. Children should also be taught to use good hygiene, washing hands regularly. Hand washing should be especially emphasized after using the rest room or playing with toys that are shared, as in doctor’s office waiting rooms.