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Practice careful hygiene to prevent hand, foot and mouth disease

The Yomiuri ShimbunHand, foot and mouth disease — an infection that causes a rash on the hands and feet of children as well as in their mouths — is spreading.

According to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID), a total of about 40,000 people developed the disease during the week through July 14. The spread of the disease is progressing at its fastest-ever pace, and it is expected to continue to be prevalent in August. The spread should be prevented via thorough hygienic controls at households and nursery schools.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is an infection caused by viruses. Although grown-ups can also be infected, patients are mostly children aged 5 or under. Those who catch the disease develop blisters the size of a grain of rice in their mouths and elsewhere, and also get a fever.

The NIID has said that a distinguishing feature of this year’s infection is that patients develop a high fever of 39 C or above. Although people tend to recover a few days after the onset of symptoms, they may develop even more serious symptoms in rare cases, such as inflammation of the brain. Caution cannot be neglected. If symptoms appear, it is advisable to swiftly get an examination at a medical institution.

Once infected by the disease, patients have difficulty eating and drinking due to pain in the mouth. There are concerns they could become dehydrated due to insufficient water intake. At home, care should be taken to prepare food that can be consumed without chewing, such as cooled rice porridge, so an infected child can get a sufficient amount of water.

Children are easily infected with the disease mainly through contact among themselves. Given that they take care of many children, nursery schools’ response to the problem holds the key to preventing infection.

Research cause of spread

Children should be taught to acquire the habit of diligently washing their hands with soap, while also not sharing towels, among other measures.

In more than a few cases, viruses contained in feces can be transmitted via someone’s hands or through other means. When they change infants’ diapers, childcare workers should take care not to touch their feces.

It is indispensable for the national and local governments to make the necessary preventive measures known to the public, complemented by each nursery school working to steadily implement them.

Hand, foot and mouth disease has spread widely in Southeast Asian nations, such as Malaysia and Vietnam, every few years. The disease has caused deaths there in past years.

In Japan, there is a tendency for the disease to become prevalent every other year. However, the main cause of the spread has not yet been identified.

It is known that there are several kinds of viruses that can trigger the disease. The types of viruses detected in patients vary, depending on the year when the disease spreads. Many types of viruses detected in patients this year match those that were predominant when the disease spread in 2011.

However, little is known about the correlation between the kind of virus and the degree of prevalence. The NIID and universities should make progress in uncovering the truth about conditions under which the disease can spread.

Viral infectious diseases to which children are prone in the summer include pharyngoconjunctival fever, known as pool fever. Hand-washing and other preventive acts should be faithfully practiced.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 24, 2019)Speech



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