There will be a declaration of an outbreak of the hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) if more regions in the country see an increase in cases, an infectious diseases expert said on Thursday.
This was seen as a subliminal advisory to parents to take precautions against HFMD, and that they should make sure their children regularly wash their hands as a preventive measure since there are no medical treatments or vaccines against HFMD.
During a televised public briefing, Dr. Rontgene Solante, who heads the Vaccine Expert Panel on Infectious Diseases at the Department of Health (DOH), said HFMD infections started in October in San Pascual, Batangas where there were 105 cases detected mostly among children aged one to 16.
He said that last November, around 540 HFMD cases were detected in Albay, affecting kids one to 10 years old. In the same month, 145 cases were also recorded in the Ilocos Region, mostly among kids aged four to nine.
The National Capital Region (NCR) also logged 155 HFMD cases recorded from October to December 6, and most of them are children aged 11 and below.
“This means that this hand, foot, and mouth disease is quite widespread now and we don’t want to say it, but we might declare an outbreak anytime especially if many regions are affected by it,” he said.
The Department of Health said Tuesday that cases of HFMD were increasing in Metro Manila, but there is no declaration of an outbreak yet for such.
Currently, Solante said the 155 HFMD cases in the NCR was not yet a reason to declare an outbreak. He said this could be declared if the cases spread in nearby regions and if the reported cases increase to more than 100 percent as compared to last year’s HFMD data.
“Thirdly, the important thing here is that the hospitals are not filled with HFMD cases. That is also one of the bases when we will declare an outbreak,” he said.
According to the World Health Organization, HFMD is a common infectious disease that most often affects children. Its common symptoms include fever, painful sores in the mouth, and a rash with blisters on hands, feet and buttocks.
“How do children get it? When they touch things contaminated with the feces of infected individuals. If they do not wash their hands, they can swallow the virus if they eat or touch food or drink water,” he said.
Children may also acquire the virus if they get contact with the respiratory secretion or the skin lesions of an HFMD-infected person, he added
He also pointed out that there are no over-the-counter drugs that could treat HFMD, aside from paracetamol for those having a fever. There are also no vaccines available for such disease.
Solante also stressed that the preventive method against HFMD is washing of hands.
Common HFMD symptoms include fever, painful sores in the mouth, and a rash with blisters on hand, feet and buttocks.
But more severe symptoms such as meningitis, encephalitis and polio-like paralysis could also manifest, according to the World Health Organization.
In case of vomiting, Solante said parents should have their children brought to the hospital and admitted for monitoring.