Confirmed cases of hand, foot and mouth disease reported in Turks and Caicos

PROVIDENCIALES, TCI — The ministry of health, agriculture and human services in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) has reported a number of confirmed cases of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD). To date, the majority of these cases have been reported in Providenciales with some cases in Grand Turk and one case in North Caicos.

In response, the ministry will be stepping up its surveillance and education campaign. Personnel will be visiting daycares and schools to deliver health education messages, public service announcements (PSAs) will be aired, and flyers are being distributed to educate the general public on how to prevent and minimize the spread of HFMD.

This disease, which is also affecting other Caribbean countries, is a contagious viral illness that primarily affects infants and children younger than five years old. It is transmitted by direct contact with nasal secretions (droplets produced by coughing or sneezing), saliva, fluid from blisters and the stool of infected individuals. HFMD is most prevalent in child care settings due to frequent contact with soiled diapers and children putting their hands in their mouths. HFMD occasionally occurs in adolescents and adults.

Symptoms include some or all of the following; painful sores in the mouth, rashes on the hands and feet (which may be associated with blisters), fever, headache, feeling generally unwell or irritable, runny nose, and/or sore throat. It is mostly a mild illness usually resolved within ten days. However, people can sometimes be contagious for days or weeks after the symptoms have resolved.

There is no specific treatment for HFMD. Paracetamol (Panadol or Tylenol) can be taken for fever and pain relief. In some cases, HFMD can cause a sore mouth and throat, which makes it difficult to swallow. To avoid dehydration, it is important to maintain adequate fluid intake.

Persons with suspected HFMD should not attend daycare, school or work to limit the spread of this disease and should report to a healthcare provider to obtain guidance, including when to return to work, school or daycare.

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