The Lao ministry of health has advised medical staff throughout the country to be on the alert for hand, foot and mouth disease, after the virus killed more than 60 Cambodian children over the past three months.
Issuing the warning, Health Minister Prof. Dr Eksavang Vongvichit on Monday encouraged medical staff to monitor people with suspected symptoms of the disease. He also asked them to inform the ministry if they have any information about disease in Laos.
“The message on surveillance for hand, foot and mouth disease has been broadcast nationwide,” Prof. Dr Eksavang told the Vientiane Times yesterday.
He said that, so far, there were no reports of the virus in Laos.
“The symptoms can be treated if the disease is suspected,” he said.
One Vientiane epidemiologist who asked not to be named said the virus has occurred in Laos before and people were treated in accordance with their symptoms. Hand, foot and mouth disease does not feature on the list of the top 10 national health concerns drawn up by the ministry of health. If patients are diagnosed at an early stage and receive the correct treatment, they will survive.
According to the US Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, there is no specific treatment for the virus. However, some things can be done to relieve the symptoms, such as taking paracetamol to lower body temperature.
Hand, foot and mouth disease is spread from person to person by direct contact with the infectious viruses that cause this disease. These viruses are found in nose and throat secretions (such as saliva, sputum, or nasal mucus), fluid in blisters, and stool of infected persons. The viruses may be spread when infected persons touch objects and surfaces that are then touched by others.
Hand, foot and mouth disease usually starts with a fever, poor appetite, a vague feeling of being unwell, and a sore throat.
The rash has flat or raised red spots, sometimes with blisters. The rash is usually on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet; it may also appear on the knees, elbows, buttocks or genital area.
Some people, especially young children, may get dehydrated if they are not able to swallow enough liquids because of painful mouth sores.
Persons infected with the viruses that cause hand, foot and mouth disease may not get all the symptoms of the disease. They may only get mouth sores. Hand, foot, and mouth disease is not transmitted to or from pets or other animals.
A person can lower their risk of being infected by washing their hands often with soap and water, especially after changing diapers and using the toilet.
It also helps to remember the three principles of basic hygiene - drink boiled water, eat cooked food and ensure that your living environment is clean.