Monday, May 20

‘Marked increase in HFMD cases this year’

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Dr Jamilah Hashim

KUCHING: Sarawak Health Department has recorded a marked increase in the number of cases of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) from Jan 1 to 19 this year compared to the same period last year.

State Health director Dr Jamilah Hashim, in a press release yesterday, said 615 HFMD cases were recorded in the first 19 days of this year, a marked increase over the 112 cases recorded during the same period last year.

“As many as 77 per cent of these cases this year involved children under the age of three years. Forty two of them were warded because of dehydration caused by sores in the mouth, making it difficult for them to eat and drink,” she said, but added there was no report of fatality.

Three divisions in Sarawak recorded more than 100 cases  each – Miri (143), Kuching (111) and Sibu (102).

For the first three weeks of this year, a total of 44 clusters of HFMD were reported, with 31 cases occurring at private homes, nine clusters involved pre-schoolers and four at nurseries, which have been ordered to close under the relevant law.

HFMD is caused by various types of enterovirus including the dreaded Coxsackie A16 (CA16) and Enterovirus71 (EV71).

The symptoms include fever and visible ulcers in the mouth and on the hand and foot. EV71 can cause complications leading to meningitis, encephalitis, cardiorespiratory and heart failures and also death. So far there is no vaccine to prevent HFMD.

“Therefore, taking precautionary measures from virus spread is always the best policy. The number of cases can increase if these measures are not taken immediately,” said Dr Jamilah, while cautioning that people movement during the holiday season may see an increase in the number of cases.

She advised parents to avoid crowded places when bringing along their children for outings and also not to allow children to share tooth brushes.