HFMD is a common and highly contagious viral infection that typically causes a mild febrile illness followed by a maculopapular rash that may involve the skin of the hands, feet, and oral cavity. HFMD is fairly common and typically affects infants and children, but may affect immunocompetent adults on occasion. The viruses that cause HFMD are spread through direct contact with the mucus, saliva, or feces of an infected person. HFMD typically occurs in small epidemics in nursery schools or kindergartens, usually during the summer and autumn months. The usual incubation period is 3–6 days.
HFMD should not be confused with foot-and-mouth disease (also known as hoof-and-mouth disease), a distinct viral disease known to affect sheep, cattle, and swine (both diseases are caused by members of the picornaviridae family) but transmission to humans is exceptionally rare. Most cases of the syndrome go away on their own and require no treatment other than to provide symptomatic relief. There is no cure or vaccine currently available for HFMD but one is under development.
A diagnosis usually can be made by the presenting signs and symptoms alone. If the diagnosis is unclear, a throat swab or stool specimen may be taken to identify the virus by culture. The common incubation period (the time between infection and onset of symptoms) ranges from three to six days.
Medications are usually not needed as hand, foot and mouth disease is a viral disease that typically gets better on its own. Currently, there is no specific curative treatment for hand, foot and mouth disease. Disease management typically focuses on achieving symptomatic relief. Pain from the sores may be eased with the use of analgesic medications. Infection in older children, adolescents, and adults is typically mild and lasts approximately 1 week, but may occasionally run a longer course. Fever reducers and lukewarm baths can help decrease body temperature.
Complications from the viral infections that cause HFMD are uncommon, but require immediate medical treatment if present. HFMD infections caused by Enterovirus 71 tend to be more severe and are more likely to have neurologic or cardiac complications including death than infections caused by Coxsackievirus A16. Viral or aseptic meningitis can occur with HFMD in rare cases and is characterized by fever, headache, stiff neck, or back pain. The condition is usually mild and clears without treatment; however, hospitalization for a short time may be needed. Other serious complications of HFMD include encephalitis (swelling of the brain), or flaccid paralysis in rare circumstances.
Fingernail and toenail loss have been reported in children 4–8 weeks after having HFMD. The relationship between HFMD and the reported nail loss is unclear; however, it is temporary and nail growth resumes without treatment.
No vaccine is currently available to protect individuals from infection by the viruses that cause HFMD, but such vaccines are being developed. HFMD is highly contagious and is transmitted by oropharyngeal secretions such as saliva or nasal mucus, by direct contact, or by fecal-oral transmission. Preventive measures include avoiding direct contact with infected individuals (including keeping infected children home from school), proper cleaning of shared utensils, disinfecting contaminated surfaces, and proper hand hygiene. These measures have been shown to be effective in decreasing the transmission of the viruses responsible for HFMD.
Hand, foot and mouth disease most commonly occurs in children under the age of 10.
In 1998, there was an outbreak in Taiwan, affecting mainly children. There were 405 severe complications, and 78 children died. The total number of cases in that epidemic is estimated to have been 1.5 million.
In 2008 an outbreak in China, beginning in March in Fuyang, Anhui, led to 25,000 infections, and 42 deaths, by May 13. Similar outbreaks were reported in Singapore (more than 2,600 cases as of April 20, 2008), Vietnam (2,300 cases, 11 deaths), Mongolia (1,600 cases), and Brunei (1053 cases from June–August 2008)
In 2009 17 children died in an outbreak during March and April 2009 in China's eastern Shandong Province, and 18 children died in the neighboring Henan Province. Out of 115,000 reported cases in China from January to April, 773 were severe and 50 were fatal.
In 2010 in China, an outbreak occurred in southern China's Guangxi Autonomous Region as well as Guangdong, Henan, Hebei and Shandong provinces. Until March 70,756 children were infected and 40 died from the disease. By June, the peak season for the disease, 537 had died.
In 2011 Vietnam, by September 4 the disease was reported to have claimed 98 lives, 75% of whom were children under 3 years old. Although there was no official declaration of an outbreak, over 42,000 cases were reported. Over 10,000 new cases were recorded in the second half of August alone.
The World Health Organization reporting between January to October 2011 (1,340,259) states the number of cases in China had dropped by approx 300,000 from 2010 (1,654,866) cases, with new cases peaking in June. There were 437 deaths, down from 2010 (537 deaths).
In 2012 in Alabama, United States there was an outbreak of an unusual type of the disease. It occurred in a season when it is not usually seen and affected teenagers and older adults. There were some hospitalizations due to the disease but no reported deaths.
In 2012 in Cambodia, 52 of 59 reviewed cases of children reportedly dead (as of July 9, 2012) due to a mysterious disease were diagnosed to be caused by a virulent form of HFMD. Although a significant degree of uncertainty exists with reference to the diagnosis, WHO report states, "Based on the latest laboratory results, a significant proportion of the samples tested positive for enterovirus 71 (EV-71), which causes hand foot and mouth disease (HFMD). The EV-71 virus has been known to generally cause severe complications amongst some patients."
Hand, foot and mouth disease infected 1,520,274 people with 431 deaths reported up to end of July in 2012 in China.
Hand, foot and mouth disease cases were first described in New Zealand in 1957.
^ abSuhaimi, Nur Dianah (April 20, 2008). "HFMD: 1,000 cases a week is unusual, says doc". Singapore: The Sunday Times (Straits Times). pp. 1–2.
^ abcLi, Y; Zhu, R; Qian, Y; Deng, J (2012). "The characteristics of blood glucose and WBC counts in peripheral blood of cases of hand foot and mouth disease in China: a systematic review". PLoS One7 (1): e29003. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029003. PMID22235257.
^ abcdKaminska, K; Martinetti, G; Lucchini, R; Kaya, G; Mainetti, C (2013). "Coxsackievirus A6 and Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease: Three Case Reports of Familial Child-to-Immunocompetent Adult Transmission and a Literature Review". Case Reports in Dermatology5 (2): 203–209. doi:10.1159/000354533. PMID24019771.
^ abcdefHoy, NY; Leung, AK; Metelitsa, AI; Adams, S (2012). "New concepts in median nail dystrophy, onychomycosis, and hand, foot and mouth disease nail pathology". ISRN Dermatology2012 (680163). doi:10.5402/2012/680163. PMID22462009.