Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hand Foot and Mouth - post script

I recently wrote a Blog on Hand Foot and Mouth Disease and said that although it can be a serious disease - but rarely fatal - infants can occasionally become very ill due to dehydration from having lots of painful mouth ulcers. In these situations, the ulcers can make it impossible to hold food, drink or even saliva in their little mouths and they can end up in hospital on IV fluids. In the vast majority of cases the infection passes and all is well!

But over the past couple of days, there have been worrying reports of a widespread outbreak of a "mystery" infection in China, and the SE Asian countries. This infection appears to have been caused in part by an Entero virus from the same family as the one that causes Hand Foot and Moth disease. In the Cambodian outbreak however,  the death rate amongst infants has been terrifying with about 60 dead and only a couple surviving so far. In this new outbreak, the classical rash on the hands, feet and in the mouth have often been absent and the children are presenting with serious brain swelling (encephalitis) and then die from destruction of the small alveoli (air sacs) in the lungs.

But although this is a terrible thing for the children and families affected, when put into perspective against the rate of hospitalization for Dengue Fever in the same period (over 5,000) then the magnitude of the challenge becomes a little more clear.

This is still an evolving story but one that we need to keep an eye on.

The message: we need to be vigilant, especially when it comes to the smallest and most defenseless in our communities. If you think you have a sick child, get a professional to check them out. As I've said on many occasions, it's far better to come home from an emergency department with a red face, then leave your child there with a white one!
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