Cases of hand, foot and mouth disease continue to rise among children in Manitoba and across the country, but an infectious disease specialist says it’s not surprising to see the virus spread after two years of pandemic restrictions.
“Over the past couple of years, we probably forgot about the routine, regular, circulating viral foes that we see in children — one of which being hand, foot and mouth disease,” Dr. Justin Penner told Global News.
“We certainly could have predicted this — it’s not unheard of after two years of a pandemic, when people aren’t mixing or aren’t in school or daycare.”
Penner said the disease typically causes non-specific symptoms — fever, cough, some belly symptoms — as well as its namesake fluid-filled blisters on hands and feet and inside the mouth.
“Most cases of hand, foot and mouth disease are self-limited — make sure that (children) stay well-hydrated, making sure they have symptom control with their temperature, make sure they’re eating and they’re comfortable … and most of these cases will go away on their own.
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“What we really need to pay attention to is kids that are dehydrated or really won’t drink at all.”
A Shared Health spokesperson confirmed to Global News that the two-year, pandemic-related dormancy period is the cause of the recent increase, which has resulted in 20 cases being treated in the first five days of July.
In all of last year, there were a total of 18 cases treated in hospital, and only 25 for all of 2020.
“The end of most pandemic-related public health measures has allowed for the reemergence of this disease,” the spokesperson said.
“Children, who are more susceptible to viruses than adults, are generally more socially active than they were over the previous two-plus years, causing their risk of exposure to be higher. Changing strains of the virus may account for a steady rise in the numbers of hand, foot and mouth disease seen throughout the world prior to the pandemic and now reemerging.”
Most people recover from hand, foot and mouth disease within a week to 10 days, and many of the strategies used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 can be used in this case as well, including handwashing, physical distancing and sanitizing surfaces.