Expert says HFMD in Singapore might soon be an epidemic
"Children usually first develop a fever, after which they tend to develop ulcers in the mouth and blisters on the hand and feet."
When Ms Wendy Phng noticed her 18-month-old toddler having red spots on her hands and feet as well as ulcers in the mouth two weeks ago, she initially thought it was a case of chicken pox.
However, a doctor's visit on 25 April confirmed that her daughter had a case of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD).
Ms Phng suspected that her toddler caught the disease while at a gathering or at the playground. She and her husband then swung into action, and spent a day disinfecting their home.
"Toys, floors and beds - we had to sanitise everything that she came into contact with. Up till now, we still keep the toys away because we heard that she's still contagious," she said.
She added that her toddler's rashes have dried up and "we're still keeping her away from crowds and other children for now."
The Ministry of Health (MOH) said that there were 1,052 cases of HFMD reported two weeks ago, which is the highest reported figure since October 2013, when 1,247 cases were reported.
Leong Hoe Nam Infectious diseases expert mentioned that the figures might result in Singapore being at the "cusp of an epidemic".
He added that the virus being highly contagious has made it worse because because children at childcare centres or kindergartens are in close proximity and share "everything".
Mr Leong mentioned that "The kids who were previously infected have moved on from kindergartens and pre-schools, which means these places are currently filled with kids who are vulnerable to the disease."
"It's very contagious. It spreads by objects and droplets (which are microscopic fluid droplets that can fly out from your mouth when you sneeze or even talk). So, if an infected person touches an object and another person, without immunity, touches it as well, it is likely that the other person will become infected," he added.
Madam Lim, 23, whose son attends a childcare centre which has seen nine cases in just over a week, said she checks her son for HFMD symptoms every day.
If he catches the virus, she and her husband will have to take leave for at least a week to care for him as they do not have a helper.
"It'll be a big inconvenience but we don't have a choice. Perhaps we'll take alternate days off, " said Madam Lim.
Childcare centres have stepped up their hygiene practices in order to stop the spreading of the virus. These include increasing the frequency of temperature and "visual" checks and regularly disinfecting shared spaces and surfaces.
Miss Winnie Tan, 34, a teacher at Acekidz Group which has seen five cases in the last two weeks, said they have started taking temperatures thrice a day instead of the usual twice, and do more thorough checks on the children's mouths, hands and feet three times daily.
They also wash and sanitise all surfaces the children come into contact with.
According to MOH guidelines, children with HFMD should stay at home and away from school until they are clear of the disease.
Dr Clarence Yeo, 43, Killiney Family and Wellness Clinic's physician, said that "Children usually first develop a fever, after which they tend to develop ulcers in the mouth and blisters on the hand and feet."
(Image credit: TNP)
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