Scrupulous hygiene urged to stop illness

KELSEY FLETCHER
Last updated 09:00 15/06/2013
toddler playing
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HYGIENE URGED: Strict cleanliness is needed to curb hand, foot and mouth disease at playcentres.

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A Palmerston North playcentre is warning parents to be vigilant about hand, foot and mouth disease.

Milson Playcentre elected to close for a day last term after two children contracted the infection within two days.

A further case was called in to centre management not long after.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is a viral infection that is spread by droplets from coughing or sneezing, or by contact with mucous, saliva, fluid from blisters, faeces of an infected person, or from contaminated surfaces.

An increased number of cases in early childhood centres has been reported in newsletters by MidCentral Health - but the diesease is not notifiable by health officials and has no vaccination.

Milson Playcentre president Kathryn Prescott said the cases had been dealt with in a positive way.

Three cases was considered an outbreak, but the centre opted to contact the regional public health unit after two, she said. "Our policy is that we keep in contact with public health every day until the cycle is broken, so we are not bringing children back who are sick and the disease won't recur."

Mrs Prescott said the fact that hand, foot and mouth is non-notifiable is quite serious for new parents, who can become quite anxious.

"For us it's a big deal because it's so hugely confusing for first-time parents who haven't experienced it - the first thing they think of is mad cow disease," she said. "One of the things we look at in our Space programme for new parents is dealing with sickness. People don't go about researching diseases.

"The important thing to recognise is the positive culture among the parents here which means everyone can be honest and open and prevent it spreading."

MidCentral District Health Board medical officer of health Rob Weir said there has been an increase in cases in the MidCentral region in recent weeks.

"The illness has a sudden onset with mild fever, sore throat, poor appetite and feeling unwell. Spots can be found in the mouth and on hands, feet, bottom and legs. It is most common in children under 10 years of age but can also occur in adults. The spots can look like chicken pox but they don't itch."

Dr Weir said in almost all cases people recovered without medical treatment in seven to 10 days. "It is important to give soft, bland, and easy to eat food and plenty of fluids," he said. The only recommended medicine is paracetamol.

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The risk of spreading hand, foot and mouth disease can be reduced by maintaining good hygiene, particularly handwashing with soap and drying hands thoroughly, and disinfection of surfaces with bleach. Anyone who has the infection should be kept away from other children."

Dr Weir said it is rare for adults to catch the disease.

"If you do catch it while pregnant or if you develop any kind of rash, it is important for you to see your doctor or lead maternity carer," he said.

If you think you might have hand, foot and mouth disease and would like more information, contact Healthline 0800 611 116.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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