December 12, 2019

Cayman Islands: Reducing the spread of hand, foot and mouth disease

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The Cayman Islands Health Services Authority (HSA) and the are working together robustly, to closely monitor and mitigate against a local outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease (). Approximately 60 cases have already been reported in the Cayman Islands.

The HSA’s Paediatric Unit in collaboration with the Public Health and Laboratory Services held an informational session on Friday, 23 February at the Cayman Islands Hospital’s Hibiscus Conference Room. They presented a comprehensive overview of HFMD to government and private healthcare workers and coordinated a joint approach that involved refining existing plans and protocols for successful containment of the virus.

HFMD is a viral illness common in infants and children under 10 years of age, but can also occur in adults.

Symptoms of HFMD include fever, reduced appetite, sore throat, a feeling of being ill (malaise) and blister-like eruptions in the mouth and on the skin. However, not every patient may exhibit all these symptoms. Some people, especially adults, may show no symptoms at all, but they can still pass the virus onto others. Reinfection can also occur in persons who have already had the virus.

“The infection most often occur in the summer and fall months so it is a bit unusual that we are seeing this outbreak in the winter time. The virus is very contagious, which is why it is very important that people take the necessary precautions and consistently use hygienic measures to reduce the risk of contracting and transmitting diseases,” said Dr. Earl Robinson, Head of Paediatrics at HSA.

There is no vaccine to protect against the viruses that cause hand, foot, and mouth disease and no specific treatment for the illness. Treatment is mainly supportive. Outbreaks of the disease may occur particularly in childcare settings and preschools.

Acting Medical Officer of Health, has previously noted as a general rule proper hand washing techniques, sanitization, cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and soiled items (including toys) and avoiding contact with children/adults who have HFMD as ways to mitigate the impact of HFMD. For management of pain he advises taking over-the-counter medications (without aspirin) and using mouthwash to assist with numbing blisters in the mouth.

Parents whose children are infected are asked to keep them at home to reduce further spreading of the virus. Children may return to school after blisters have dried up and there are no new blisters, as well as there is no fever for at least 24 hours.

Routine school inspection and active surveillance are part of the Public Health team’s established protocol in handling communicable/contagious diseases. Once the team receive reports of any cases, it works closely with schools to assist with containing the spread of the virus.

The Public Health Department has a school nurse coordinator who is actively educating each school on hand, foot and mouth disease. The department’s Surveillance Officer Timothy McLaughlin-Munroe is also closely monitoring and collecting data on local cases that have been reported.

Although reporting cases of this disease is not mandatory, Dr Williams encouraged, “all public and private physicians to report each case so that we may improve the accuracy of our data and be better equipped to take the required actions to reduce the spread of the virus.”

For further information, contact the Public Health Department on 244-2621.

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