Hand-foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks higher than in years past: AHS

A child with hand-foot-and-mouth disease in Edmonton. Courtesy: Renee Lafranchise

Editor’s note: The 2021/2022 data has been updated to reflect correct information from AHS.

A painful and contagious disease is on the rise in Alberta.

Hand-foot-and-mouth-disease typically causes non-specific symptoms — fever, cough, some belly symptoms — as well as its namesake fluid-filled blisters on hands and feet as well as inside the mouth.

According to data from Alberta Health Services, in 2021/2022, there were 156 reports of outbreaks of the disease in childcare facilities — 84 of which were in the Edmonton Zone. The year before, there were 61 outbreaks total.

In 2018/2019 there were 90 outbreaks and in 2017/2018 there were 120.

Read more: Cases of hand, foot and mouth disease on the rise among Manitoba kids

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Dr. Bruce Wright, a physician at the Stollery Children’s Hospital’s emergency department said pandemic restrictions likely lightened case numbers of hand-foot-and-mouth disease.

“Last summer we saw, generally speaking, a lot less viral illnesses in general and that was primarily due to isolation requirements, masking requirements and people with symptoms staying home.”

Wright said anyone can get the disease, including teens and adults.

Ryenn Marczack, 16, got sick about a month ago with the disease, along with her two siblings.

“I couldn’t walk for two to three weeks. That’s how big my sores were. I also couldn’t eat because I had sores in my mouth and down my throat,” said Marczack.

Wright said he sees cases year round, but it typically peaks in the winter months.

“We tend to see it come and go and it tends to be fairly transmissible in younger children. They can get it at home, daycare or a school environment.”

Read more: Alberta announces new COVID numbers, rescinded restrictions and the future of data reporting

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.

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Wright recommends people stay well-hydrated and avoid close contact with others.

-With files from Sam Thompson/Global News

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