Public Health officials continue to closely monitor hand, foot, and mouth disease cases that have been identified in schools in the Cayman Islands.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is a viral illness common in infants and children under 10 years of age but can also occur in adults.

HFMD is characterized by an onset of fever, reduced appetite, sore throat, and a feeling of being unwell (malaise), as well as blister-like eruptions on the tongue, inside the cheek, and on the skin- palm of the hands, soles of the feet and occasionally on the buttocks. Some people, especially adults, may show no symptoms at all, but they can still pass the virus on to others. Reinfection can also occur in persons who have already had the virus.

“While there is no vaccine to protect against the viruses that cause hand, foot, and mouth disease and no specific treatment for the illness, proper hygiene and prevention similar to those adopted during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic are effective in curbing the spread of the virus,” explains Dr. Nick Gent, Chief Medical Officer.

“Proper hand washing techniques, sanitisation, cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and soiled items- including toys- and avoiding contacting with persons who have HFMD are all effective ways of minimising the spread of the virus,” Dr. Gent continues.

“As of Wednesday, 18 October, the Public Health Department identified HFMD in 17 local schools,” adds Dr. Samuel Williams–Rodriguez, Medical Officer of Health. “Parents whose children have contracted HFMD can give them over-the-counter medications that do not contain aspirin, as well as mouthwash to assist with numbing blisters in the mouth, as a way to mitigate their discomfort.”

“The infection most often occurs in the summer and fall months,” Nurse Carvell Bailey-Able, School Health Coordinator adds. “The virus is very contagious, so it is important to take the necessary precautions at both home and school and consistently use hygienic measures to reduce the risk of contracting and transmitting the disease.”

Parents whose children are infected with HFMD are reminded to keep them at home to reduce further spread. Additionally, all infected persons should refrain from public interaction (nurseries, schools, and work in particular) while unwell, and only when symptoms have subsided (including being fever free for 24 hours).

For further information, contact the Public Health Department on 244-2889.