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October 19
11:48 2018
REPORTER: News Staff, -

While Pediatricians say that there are increasing cases of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) going around, the Ministry of Health reminds that the mere occurrence of an illness does not constitute an outbreak.

HFMD is caused by viruses called Coxsackieviruses and transmit mostly through person to person interaction, but can also spread by coming in contact with contaminated areas such as table tops, toys and other surfaces where viruses can survive. The sickness is most common in children under 10 years old, and while it is not life threatening, it can be uncomfortable, especially for younger children. The symptoms include fever, rash, sores in various places including the hands, feet buttocks and around the mouth and ulcers in the throat.

In more severe cases, the symptoms such as the ulcers in the throat can lead to some weight loss that comes with reduced consumption due to the painful ulcers in the throat. Fevers if left unchecked can also give rise to other health issues. Notably, there is no cure or vaccine for HFMD. The illness generally goes away within seven and 10 days, and treatment is administered based on what symptoms present themselves in the patient.

The Ministry of Health determines an outbreak by looking at the number of incidents of a particular illness for a given period and checking to see if the current number of incidents exceeds the amount in the reference period.

Lorna Perez (MSc) Surveillance Officer for the ministry, explained that there was a spike in the number of cases of HFMD in the months of April and May. She noted that the ministry is currently monitoring to see if there is another spike, but stressed that the ministry’s data is only what is captured within the Belize Health Information System, when patients go to access care at health facilities countrywide.

Belize only saw one reported case in January, six cases in February and four cases in March. In April the number of reported cases shot up to 15, and went up to 19 by May. The number fell down to 10 in June and has been falling since. There have only been 7 cases reported for the month of October as of October 16.

“This is a virus, so it is prevalent in places like preschools. Adults can pass it from one child to another if they don’t adhere to proper hand washing. Hand washing is the backbone of prevention for all communicable diseases,” Perez said.

She added that parents and guardians who observe the above symptoms are encouraged to access health centers and clinics to assist the ministry with monitoring the condition and ensure that it had an accurate picture of the prevalence of the disease. Perez also said that the incident highlights the Ministry’s observation of Global Hand Washing Week, being observed from October 15-19 under the theme “Clean hands- a recipe for health,” taken from Global Hand Washing Day on the 15th.

Parent are encouraged to adhere to proper hand washing practices as well as sanitizing areas where viruses may thrive to prevent the spread of HFMD to their children and children in their surroundings.


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