Hand Foot & Mouth Disease

(Coxsackie Viral Infection)

What is hand, foot, and mouth disease?

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.

Who gets hand, foot, and mouth disease?

Usually this occurs in children less than 10 years old, but occasionally occurs in young adults.

How is the virus spread?

The virus is spread by direct contact with the nose and throat discharges or stool (feces) of infected people.

What are the symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease?

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.

When and for how long can someone spread the disease?

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.

How is hand, foot, and mouth disease diagnosed?

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.

Does prior infection with coxsackie virus make a person immune?

Specific immunity can occur, but a second episode is possible from a different subtype of coxsackie virus.

What is the treatment for hand, foot, and mouth disease?

There is no specific treatment. Symptomatic treatment of fever and drinking plenty of fluids are usually recommended.

Can there be complications associated with hand, foot, and mouth disease?

The illness is typically mild and complications are rare.

How can hand, foot, and mouth disease be prevented?

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.

Is there a risk for pregnant women?

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