Indiana health officials see increase in cases of hand, foot and mouth disease

Child with hand, foot and mouth disease (Photo courtesy of the CDC)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Officials with two of Indiana’s biggest health networks say they’re seeing an increase in the amount of hand, foot and mouth disease cases.

Both Community Health Network and St. Vincent Health say they’re seeing the increase in cases as kids head back to school.

The disease, which is caused by different viruses, typically affects children younger than five, but older kids and adults can catch it as well.

Dr. Suzanne Gannan, a pediatrician at Community Health Network’s Geist clinic, says many of the kids she’s seen with the disease attend day care, “so the increase is not surprising.”

The disease usually lasts seven to 10 days. According to the CDC, initial symptoms include fever, reduced appetite, sore throat, and a feeling of being unwell. One or two days after the fever starts, the CDC says painful sores can develop in the mouth. They usually begin as small red spots that blister and can become painful.

A skin rash on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet may also develop over one or two days as flat, red spots, sometimes with blisters. It may also appear on the knees, elbows, buttocks or genital area.

Children can return to day care when they are 24 hours fever free, according to Dr. Gannan.

“Since this is a viral illness, there is no medicine to treat this illness, but we stress pain control with Tylenol or Motrin and encouraging plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration,” said Dr. Gannan.

You can lower your risk of being infected by doing the following:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after changing diapers and using the toilet
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and soiled items, including toys
  • Avoid close contact such as kissing, hugging, or sharing eating utensils or cups with people with the disease

Along with hand, foot and mouth disease, health officials say they’re also seeing a similar virus where patients develop ulcers in the back of their mouths, as opposed to in the front.

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