Contagious hand, foot and mouth disease is rapidly spreading through childcare centres in the Wellington region, with a "higher than usual" number of cases.
More than a dozen childcare centres have contacted Regional Public Health to report outbreaks in recent weeks. Some had one or two sick children, while others had clusters of six or more.
Though it was common at this time of year, there had been an increase in the usual number of cases, public health adviser Jennine Kaio said.
"In the past four years I've been here, this is the most cases I've had regarding advice and assistance. I would normally get one or two in the whole of winter."
It is not a notifiable disease, which means public health authorities do not have exact figures on how many children have been infected.
But childcare centres in Wellington, Porirua and the Hutt Valley had contacted Kaio asking for advice on how to prevent it spreading.
There is no specific treatment and children, especially toddlers who dribble, should be kept at home because the fluid inside the blisters is infectious.
On top of a fever, sores in the mouth may develop. A rash usually appears on the palms of hands and soles of the feet, and occasionally on the bottom or nappy area.
The rash, which looks like chickenpox but is not itchy, may be flat or raised and can also appear as blisters.
Children should be kept away from childcare centres and school until the blisters had dried and crusted over, Ms Kaio said.
The severity of symptoms had varied this year, with some children suffering painful rashes and blisters.
"Instead of it just being on the palms of their hands and soles of their feet and just around their mouths, they're all over their bodies," she said.
"They're very, very sick. They can get dehydrated because they're not eating and drinking like they normally would.
"But again it just depends on what type of strain they contract as to what symptoms they have."
The viral disease is not related to foot and mouth disease associated with animals.
One childcare centre in Lower Hutt said it had had half a dozen children off sick in the past fortnight with hand, foot and mouth disease.
- The Dominion Post
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