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Hand, foot and mouth disease

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Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) is caused by a viral infection. It can present with vesicles in the mouth and/or papulo-vesicles to the hands or feet. It is usually caused by the Coxsackie A16 virus and, less commonly, enterovirus 71.1 HFMD is generally a mild, self-limiting viral infection in children and in some cases there may not be clinical symptoms. Adults are less commonly affected.1

Complications are rare. However, there may be neurological complications, such as encephalitis or meningitis, and pulmonary complications, such as oedema and pneumonia, associated with enterovirus 71 infection.2

Oral intake may be affected so the most usual complication is dehydration, particularly in children.

It is important to reassure patients, parents and carers that HFMD is not related to foot and mouth disease in animals.2

HFMD is spread as a result of contact with the nasal and throat secretions of an affected individual, contact with the blister fluid or via the faeco-oral route. Vertical transmission from mother to foetus may occur.2 There is an increased risk of transmission immediately before and in the acute phase of the illness, although the causative enterovirus may persist in the faeces for much longer.1 The incubation period is three to five days.

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