Recently, Malaysians have been made aware of a significant rise of hand foot and mouth disease (HFMD) cases throughout the country. The outbreak recorded more than 47,000 cases in year 2022 as of May. The number was reported to be 20 times more than previous year within the same period.
HFMD is an important health issues among infants and children which was identified to be caused by viruses from enterovirus family. Specifically, enterovirus A71 (EV71) and coxsackievirus A16 (CA16) are the most common pathogens found in patients diagnosed with HFMD. Though HFMD is mostly a self-limiting disease, infection caused by EV71 is known to be associated with complications including neurological and cardiorespiratory problems.
HFMD common initial presentation is low-grade fever [s1] followed by ulcers in the mouth, rash or blisters on hands, sole of feet and buttocks. These symptoms may be accompanied by reduced appetite and general malaise. The viruses can be transmitted through fecal-oral, oral-oral and respiratory droplet, [s2] which means, any direct contact (i.e., hugging, kissing) or exposure to respiratory droplets (i.e., cough or sneezing) from an infected person carries risk of developing HFMD. This explains the occurrence of outbreaks in nurseries and schools.
There is no specific treatment for HFMD, most patients spontaneously recover within a few days. The management of HFMD is mostly supportive, focussing on relieving pain, controlling fever and hydration. Prevention of HFMD plays a major role in controlling the disease. Practices such as washing hand regularly, uses of hand sanitiser and disinfectant, covering mouth when coughing and sneezing as well as avoiding close contact (e.g., kissing, hugging or sharing utensils) with infected people, helps in reducing transmission of the disease.
As of today, the vaccine for HFMD is yet to be available. Thus, the best prevention options are the practices mentioned above. With these simple steps, children may have safer and healthier environment for their daily live.
1. Esposito S, Principi N. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 2018;37(3):391-398.Li PW et al. PLoS One. 2021 Mar 25;16(3):e0248916.
2. Saguil A, Kane SF, Am Fam Physician. 2019;100(7):408-414.