Penang records 48% rise in hand, foot and mouth disease cases

State health exco member Dr Afif Bahardin. (Bernama pic)

GEORGE TOWN: Penang has recorded a 48% spike in the number of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) cases in the first half of the year compared with the same period last year.

State Agriculture and Agro-based Industry, Rural Development and Health Committee chairman Dr Afif Bahardin said as of July 4 this year, the number of reported cases stood at 1,555, compared with 1,050 cases in the corresponding period last year.

“For this year to date, a total of 53 nurseries and kindergartens have reported HFMD clusters in their respective premises, which is an increase of 381%, compared with only 11 clusters reported in the same period last year,” he said in a statement today.

HFMD is caused by a viral infection from the Coxsackie A16 and Enterovirus 71 (EV71) types of virus. The virus spreads through contact with saliva, blisters and faeces from patients.

Afif said the infections were usually mild with fever symptoms, followed by blisters on the hands, feet, mouth and tongue.

“Almost all patients who suffer from HFMD recover without treatment between seven and 10 days,” he added.

However, he noted that the EV71 infection puts patients at risk of severe complications such as encephalitis, pulmonary oedema and myocarditis.

He advised operators and those in childcare to always ensure their premises were kept clean, especially their tools and utensils.

Afif also urged them to carry out checks in nurseries and kindergartens to ensure the children did not have HFMD symptoms.

“Children with such symptoms are advised not to come to school to prevent the infection from spreading to other children,” he said.

Afif added that such nurseries and kindergartens should also report any HFMD case to the health district office for control and prevention purposes.