A viral illness is spreading in Virginia, doctors are warning.
The disease is affecting children, doctors in the Central Shenandoah Health District said in a letter sent out on Wednesday.
Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) has been seen widely in the district in recent weeks, officials said, noting the illness primarily infects children up to age 5, although anyone can become infected.
“There were a total across the state of 376 emergency department and urgent care visits that a chief complaint or a diagnosis of hand, foot, and mouth disease. Or, they had symptoms consistent with that of the diagnosis,” according to Laura Kornegay, the district’s health director, reported WAVY.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HFMD usually starts with a fever, reduced appetite, and sore throat, with painful sores developing one or two days after the fever starts. The sores typically develop first in the mouth.
A skin rash or red spots also begin to appear on the hands and/or feet.
“The problem with the disease is that with the blisters in your mouth it hurts to swallow,” Dr. Kevin Connelly told WWBT. “So children don’t want to eat…don’t want to drink. They have a risk of getting dehydrated.”
Indeed, some patients cannot swallow enough liquids to avoid dehydration; if that’s the case, officials say they’ll need to receive the liquids intravenously.
The illness spreads through close personal contact, such as hugging an infected person, or through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Touching contaminated objects such as a doorknob that has viruses on it can also cause contraction of the illness.
People who get hand, foot, and mouth disease should know there is no specific treatment but they’re encouraged to take over-the-counter medications to relieve pain and fever and use mouthwashes or sprays that numb mouth pain.