MORGANTOWN — The Monongalia County Health Department is imploring residents to be conscious of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease.
Several cases have come up in the area, including Morgantown and the WVU football team.
Dr. Lee Smith, executive director and county health officer, said there are several different viruses that can cause the illness. Anyone infected by one, doesn’t necessarily give protection from another. Since there are several different types, someone could have had it as a typical childhood illness and then contract it as an adult.
“Sometimes what we see is that with some viral illnesses, like say chicken pox, is that if you don’t have a real strong case — you’re not covered from head to toe but you get one or two little bumps — then you can come back with a second case because it gives you no protection,” he said.
The disease typically takes three to six days to show up once someone has been infected, Smith said. It usually starts with a fever and then blisters. He said the blisters don’t all come at once, but in waves.
Someone can have new blisters, old blisters, and some that are healed. These blisters will itch and are sometimes a little painful. The fluid in the blisters is infectious as well.
Hygiene is a big player in avoiding contraction. Someone who has not washed their hands properly after using the bathroom could spread it by touching a doorknob or someone else’s food.
“We really want people to keep their kids home if it’s a child who has a fever and this rash. We want adults to obviously stay home, too, that have this fever and this rash, and not spread that,” he said.
For people who are not experiencing this, he stressed the importance of meticulous hygiene. There is no vaccine or medication that can treat the disease.
When a child has a mouth full of sores, he or she may not feel like eating or drinking, but that’s when it’s imperative to get fluid into them to avoid dehydration.
The health department has not had an influx or reports of the disease, but there are concerns given the school year just started, both college and Mon County Schools.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports there are up to 200,000 cases in a year, with cases popping up in late summer and early fall.
Smith said it just seems to be the time when instances are higher. The origin is hard to determine.
The WVU football team cancelled its Fan Day Sunday because a few players had contracted the disease.
“It was reported to me that there have been several cases, but not a lot. They have been isolating those individuals but there were some concerns that at a public gathering there would be children wanting to see their football heroes, and it could potentially be spread,” Smith said.
Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is considered a contagious illness. Though adults do get the disease, the majority is going to be children, said Smith.