The Environmental Health Division and the Ministry of Health Department are actively advocating preventative practice for Hand-Foot-And-Mouth disease since cases of the disease was discovered in daycares in the Territory.
Over the last four weeks the Territory has been on alert since cases of the disease were reported: it was announced that there are approximately 76 cases of Hand-Foot-and-Mouth disease specifically involving children in the various daycares in the BVI.
The discovery of the disease within the Territory was confirmed by Epidemiologist within the Government of the Virgin Islands Harmony Brewley during an interview with ZBVI radio on 4 November.
In that interview Brewley said that the Environmental Health Division and the Ministry of Health amped up their sensitization in response to the outbreak of Hand-Foot-And-Mouth disease in the Territory.
Brewley announced that health officials are working to address the situation: “The Environmental Health Division and the Ministry of Health are definitely on top of this. We are conducting our assessment, doing our contact tracing and we are conducting sensitization.”
“We realize there is a lot of misconception out there regarding Hand-Foot-And-Mouth disease so those need to be clarified, so that persons can be educated about and control measures. Regarding the daycare we are enforcing hygienic and sanitation practices to stop the transition of the virus,” she announced.
The Epedimiologist said that the situation is being compounded by incorrect perceptions about the disease. “Misconceptions relating to what it is, how long the virus stays in the body because some persons believe once the 10 days are up or once the lesions or blisters have dried up that’s it, but the virus actually stays in the feces for up to four to eight weeks so that’s why sometimes you may have what we call secondary cases or close contact coming down with Hand-Foot-and-Mouth, because they still maybe changing the diapers and not practicing strict hand hygiene measures. What happens is that they then contract Hand-Foot-and-Mouth although the child is not showing visible symptoms,” Brewley said.
The symptoms of Hand-Foot-And-Mouth disease are: Fever, sore throat, feeling of being unwell (malaise), painful, red, blister-like lesions on the tongue, gums and inside of the cheeks, a red rash, without itching but sometimes with blistering, on the palms, soles and sometimes the buttocks and irritability in infants and toddlers.
At that time it was announced that there is no cause for concern as yet in relation to the disease being at preschools. In fact, Brewley noted: “We have only had very few cases …within the pre-schools, but most of the cases are actually from two years and under.”
Meanwhile, it was mentioned that older children are not immune to the disease and that there has been occurrence of the disease in a child older than pre-school age: “We have actually had one adolescent case that we know of. Other than that, we don’t really have any report from the young adult population or even the primary school.”