Every year around this time a seasonal outbreak of Hand, Foot and Mouth disease hits schools and kindergartens around town. This morning I received an SMS from a mother in my daughter’s kindergarten class saying that her daughter had been diagnosed over the weekend and had probably caught the virus some time last week.
This is the second time in as many years that my daughter has been attending her school where we have heard of a student coming down with the illness and once again, we have not heard anything from the school itself, which, according to Beijing law, should be obliged to shut its doors for at least ten days if two or more cases are reported in a single class in one week.
Unfortunately diagnosing Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease in a timely manner is tricky – symptoms (i.e. "fever and blister-like eruptions in the mouth and/or a skin rash") don’t usually show up until after the third day of infection, which means that many more kids may have been infected in the meantime. Moreover, there is no known vaccine or treatment for the virus (doctors usually just let it run its course), but the illness rarely turns serious, although a few deaths are reported each year.
In the meantime you can read up on the American Center for Disease Control’s recommendations for prevention, which include the following tips:
- Washing hands often with soap and water, especially after changing diapers and using the toilet. Visit CDC’s Clean Hands Save Lives! for more information.
- Disinfecting dirty surfaces and soiled items, including toys. First wash the items with soap and water; then disinfect them with a solution of chlorine bleach (made by mixing 1 tablespoon of bleach and 4 cups of water).
- Avoiding close contact such as kissing, hugging, or sharing eating utensils or cups with people with hand, foot, and mouth disease.