Nima Wangdi

With 47 school children having been infected, the health ministry declared a hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) outbreak in the country. The cases were reported from schools under Wangdue, Punakha and Zhemgang dzongkhags.

Health ministry officials said that they don’t have a specific time of when the cases were diagnosed first as the cases were reported at different times. Infected children are advised to stay home to prevent spread.

Officiating director of the public health department, Rixin Jamtsho said that it is a disease that occurs at this time of the year. HFMD is also common among cattle.

He said the disease outbreak recurs about every three years. Children below five years are the vulnerable population.

He said there was an outbreak of HFMD in 2016, where 11 dzongkhags had reported an outbreak. “In 2019, there were a few cases but no outbreak as such.” 

Officials said that the disease could be severe among people with comorbidities. 

HFMD is a highly contagious infection. Viruses from the Enterovirus genus, most commonly the coxsackievirus causes it.

The signs and symptoms comprise sore throat, feeling unwell, painful, red blister-like lesions on the tongue, gums and inside cheeks. Red rashes on the palms, soles and sometimes buttocks are some other symptoms. Infected people will also lose appetite. 

Children below five, especially males, who have poor hygiene and a high frequency of social contact are at high risk. The infection starts with a mild fever and runny nose. 

Health officials advise children to wash their hands frequently with soap and water, maintain hygiene and sanitation, wear face masks, avoid close contact, and avoid sharing cups or utensils with those infected.