Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a viral infection caused by a strain of Coxsackie virus. It causes a blister-like rash that, as the name implies, involves the hands, feet and mouth. This is not a reportable condition in New York City, so the number of people infected each year is unknown.
Usually this occurs in children less than 10 years old, but occasionally occurs in young adults.
The virus is spread by direct contact with the nose and throat discharges or stool (feces) of infected people.
Symptoms of fever, poor appetite, runny nose and sore throat can appear 3 to 5 days after exposure. A blister-like rash on the hands, feet, and mouth usually develops 1 to 2 days after the initial symptoms.
A person is contagious when the first symptoms appear and remains contagious until the blister-like skin lesions disappear. The virus can be shed in the stool for up to several weeks.
The diagnosis is generally suspected based upon the appearance of a blister-like rash on the hands, feet, and mouth in a child with a mild febrile illness. Although specific viral tests are available to confirm the diagnosis, they are rarely performed due to the expense and length of time needed to complete the tests.
Specific immunity can occur, but a second episode is possible from a different subtype of coxsackie virus.
There is no specific treatment. Symptomatic treatment of fever and drinking plenty of fluids are usually recommended.
The illness is typically mild and complications are rare.
Children who feel ill or have a fever should be excluded from group settings (such as daycare) until the fever is gone and the child feels well. Thorough hand washing and care with diaper changing practices is important as well.
It is not known whether or not coxsackie viral infections during pregnancy can cause harm to the fetus. Pregnant women should consult their obstetrician for further information.
Last updated October 2000