Health & Fitness

Outbreak of contagious disease affecting SC children. Adults are vulnerable too

A rash of red spots or bumps is a sign of hand, foot and mouth disease.
A rash of red spots or bumps is a sign of hand, foot and mouth disease.

Doctors are seeing a spike of a contagious disease among children in certain states. The illness has reached South Carolina.

Hand, foot and mouth disease begins with flu-like symptoms such as fever, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and irritability among infants and toddlers, doctors say. Then the distinctive trait of the virus shows up — skin lesions around the hands, feet and mouth that look like a rash of red spots or bumps. Sometimes the lesions can become ulcers or sores, according to Dr. Elizabeth Mack, an associate professor of pediatric critical care at the Medical University of South Carolina. She spoke with WCSC of Texas.

Doctors are seeing an increase in the frequency of the disease throughout Tennessee, Virginia, Indiana and South Carolina, CBS News reports.

South Carolina health officials say 15 reported outbreaks of HFMD have happen this year, WLTX reported.

Dr. Sterling Harper, who works in Summerville, says he’s seen a sharp uptick in the disease.

“The last shift I worked in the pediatric emergency department, the majority of the children I took care of in that one shift had hand, foot and mouth,” Harper told WCIV news 4 in Charleston.

Two Major League Baseball players were recently sidelined with the disease.

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The illness is caused by a virus and frequently sets in because of lack of hand-washing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the disease is transmitted by being around someone with the disease or coming in contact with an infected person. It is transmittable through air. A person could even catch the virus from swimming pools, though this is rare. Children are particularly susceptible because they more often put their hands in their mouths and are in close quarters with other kids at day care and school. Adults can get the disease too.

An outbreak of HFMD hit Florida State University in 2016.

“Generally, a person with hand, foot and mouth disease is most contagious during the first week of illness,” the CDC says on its website. “People can sometimes be contagious for days or weeks after symptoms go away. Some people, especially adults, may become infected and not develop any symptoms, but they can still spread the virus to others. This is why people should always try to maintain good hygiene, such as frequent hand-washing, so they can minimize their chance of spreading or getting infections.”

The disease is fairly common. Outbreaks have occurred in the past mostly in Asian countries, the CDC says. No specific medication or treatment exists for the disease, but over-the-counter pain medication can relieve symptoms, and mouthwashes can help with sores in the mouth, according to the CDC.

While rare, polio-like paralysis can develop from the disease. Viral meningitis can also be a complication. This also is rare, the CDC says.

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This animation, current as of Feb, 17, 2018, shows the number of influenza cases per 100,000 people in South Carolina and the total deaths in the state by region this season. S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reports that the sta