As of last Saturday, there have been a total of 6,197 cases of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) reported in the Klang Valley alone.

This, according to reports is 14 times higher than the 403 cases reported in the corresponding period last year. One of the worst hit states in the country is Labuan, which has seen a 100 percent jump in cases in the first five months of this year (from seven cases to 443 cases).

Below are some facts about the disease so that you can keep your family safe:

What is HFMD?

HFMD is a mild, contagious viral infection caused by the coxsackhie virus, common in young children. It is characterized by sores in the mouth and rashes on the hands and feet. Just like COVID-19, self-hygiene measures such as frequent hand-washing and avoiding close contact with those infected are key to staying safe.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of HFMD may include a sore throat, painful, red, blister-like lesions on the tongue, gums and inside of the cheeks. Infected individuals may also experience a red rash without itching on the palms, soles, and sometimes the buttocks. It is often accompanied by loss of appetite, and irritability in infants and toddlers who cannot verbalize.

When should I be alarmed?

Symptoms of HFMD may appear three to six days after an infection. The disease commonly lasts a few months before dissipating by itself, but do contact your doctor if your child's condition worsens, or they have problems consuming fluids.

How does it spread?

HFMD commonly spreads by person-to-person contact with an infected person's nasal secretions of throat discharge, saliva, fluid from blisters, stool, or respiratory droplets sprayed into the air after a cough or sneeze.

The illness is common in child care settings as little children often put their hands in their mouths, among other reasons. Although an infected person is most contagious during the first week of the illness, the virus remains in the body for weeks afterwards, and therefore, can still infect others.

How do I prevent it?

Self hygiene is key. Thoroughly wash hands carefully, especially after using the toilet or changing a diaper, and before preparing food and eating. Sanitary wipes with alcohol can be used to clean hands when soap and water are not available.

Don't forget to disfinfect commonly used areas with soap and water. Adults should teach good hygiene habits to children. Infected individuals should be quarantined as HFMD is highly contagious.

Hope the simple guide above has helped you understand the illness better. Stay safe!

Photo source: Borneo Today