Jamaica confirms outbreak of hand foot and mouth disease

Minister of Health, Dr Fenton Ferguson
Minister of Health, Dr Fenton Ferguson

Jamaica has confirmed an outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease in several schools.

The contagious hand, foot and mouth disease is spreading rapidly in the parishes of Kingston, St Andrew, St Catherine and St Thomas, moving from 27 schools on Tuesday to 53 on Wednesday.

Guidelines for the management of the disease have also been issued and Public Health Inspectors have been deployed to assess the situation.

Hand foot and mouth disease is a common childhood illness caused by a coxsackie virus and it occurs in the months September to November and is most frequently seen in young children, infants, and toddlers.

The Ministry said that it is characterized by fever and a blister-like rash affecting the palms of the hands and soles of the feet along with blisters inside the mouth.

It said children usually become infected with the virus from other children in an oral faecal pattern “that is, from exposure to oral secretions (nasal discharge, saliva, etc.) or to stool”.

The initial symptoms include fever and general malaise including poor appetite, aches and pains and would generally last one to two days before a blister-like rash develop on the hands, feet, and in the mouth.

The Ministry of Health said that while there are no specific treatment for HFMD, supportive care, including fever management, and prevention of dehydration are the primary goals.

Minister of Health, Dr Fenton Ferguson is urging school administrators to make an immediate report to the Medical Officers of Health in their parish or to the Health Department if they suspect that there may be cases of Hand, Foot and Mouth disease (HFMD) in their school.

It warned parents that prolonged elevated temperatures in children, signs or symptoms of dehydration “are indications that immediate medical attention should be sought”.

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