Hand-Foot-And-Mouth Syndrome (cont.)

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How is hand foot and mouth disease spread?

HFM is spread person to person by direct contact with the infecting virus (either Coxsackie virus A-16 or less commonly enterovirus 71). These viruses are most commonly found in the nasal and throat regions but also in the blister fluid or stool of infected individuals. Infected individuals are most contagious during the first week of their illness. HFM cannot be contracted from pets or animals.

The viruses that cause HFM may remain in the person's respiratory or intestinal tract for several weeks to months after all symptoms have resolved. It is possible, therefore, to transmit the infection even though the formally ill individual has completely recovered. Some individuals (most commonly adults) may exhibit no symptoms during their infection but may unwittingly transmit the illness to those (commonly infants and children) who are not immune.

What is the incubation period for hand foot and mouth disease?

HFM is moderately contagious and spreads from person to person. It cannot be spread by animals. Usually the virus is passed via oral secretions (nasal discharge, saliva, etc.) or via stool. There is a short four- to six-day incubation period between exposure and development of initial symptoms (fever and malaise). A person is most contagious during the first week of illness.

When does hand foot and mouth disease occur?

Spring and fall are the most frequent seasons for community epidemics of HFM. While anyone exposed to the viral causes of HFM may develop disease, not everyone infected will develop symptoms.

How does hand foot and mouth disease affect pregnancy and the baby?

Commonly HFM is an illness of children less than 10 years of age; adults generally were exposed during childhood and maintain a natural immunity. Information regarding fetal exposure to HFM during pregnancy is limited. No solid evidence exists that maternal enterovirus infection is associated with complications such as spontaneous abortion or congenital defects. However, should a baby be born to a mother with active HFM symptoms, the risk of neonatal infection is high. Typically, such newborns have a mild illness. Rarely, overwhelming infection involving vital organs such as liver, heart, and brain can be lethal.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/26/2012

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