What is hand-foot-and-mouth disease?
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease (HFMD) is a common illness of infants and children.
- Fever, sores in the mouth, and a rash with blisters.
- Begins with a mild fever, poor appetite, malaise, and a sore throat.
- One or two days after the fever begins, sores develop in the mouth. They begin as small red spots that blister and then often become ulcers. They are usually located on the tongue, gums, and inside of the cheeks.
- The skin rash develops over one to two days with flat or raised red spots, some with blisters. The rash does not itch, and it is usually located on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. It may also appear on the buttocks.
- A person with HFMD may have only the rash or the mouth ulcers.
Is HFMD the same as foot-and-mouth disease?
No. HFMD is a different disease from foot-and-mouth disease of cattle, sheep, and swine. Although the names are similar, the two diseases are not related at all and are caused by different viruses.
Is HFMD serious?
Usually not. Nearly all people with HFMD recover without medical treatment. HFMD usually resolves in seven to ten days. There are no common complications. Rarely, this illness may be associated with aseptic or viral meningitis, in which the person has fever, headache, stiff neck, or back pain, and may need to be hospitalized for a few days.
What causes HFMD?
Several different viruses cause HFMD. The most common cause is coxsackievirus A16; occasionally, other strains of coxsackievirus A or enterovirus 71 cause HFMD. The coxsackieviruses are members of a group of viruses called the enteroviruses. The enterovirus group includes polioviruses, coxsackieviruses, and echoviruses.
Is it contagious?
Yes, HFMD is moderately contagious. Infection is spread from person to person by direct contact with nose and throat discharges or the stool of infected persons. A person is most contagious during the first week of the illness. HFMD is not transmitted to or from pets or other animals.
How soon will someone become ill after getting infected?
The usual period from infection to onset of symptoms is three to six days. Fever is often the first symptom of HFMD.
Who is at risk for HFMD?
HFMD occurs mainly in children under 10 years old, but adults may also be at risk. Everyone is susceptible to infection. Infection results in immunity to the specific virus, but a second episode may occur following infection with a different one of the enteroviruses.
When and where does HFMD occur?
Individual cases and outbreaks of HFMD occur worldwide, more frequently in summer and early autumn.