Janesville doctors seeing more hand, foot and mouth disease in local children

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Gina Duwe
Friday, July 25, 2014

JANESVILLE--Area doctors are seeing more children with hand, foot and mouth disease, and some cases are more severe than usual.

“The severity this year is much worse than usual,” said Dr. Mark Goelzer, a pediatrician with Mercy Health System.

Doctors usually see a fair number of cases in summer, he said, but there's an uptick lately. He's heard of more than 100 cases through his office.

“(There are) some children that have just horrendous rashes with it, much worse than what we normally see,” he said.

He said a different strain might be to blame.

Here's what you need to know:

-- What it is: Hand, foot and mouth disease is a virus easily transferred between people. It most commonly affects young children--toddler to 5 years old--although anyone can get it, said Dr. Karen Ekwueme, a primary care physician at Dean Clinic in Delavan.

-- The symptoms: Rashes and blister-like sores are common on the palms of hands, soles of feet, in and around the mouth and sometimes on arms and legs, Goelzer said. In the youngest, symptoms can appear in the diaper area.

The virus usually starts with a fever of about 101 degrees and develops into a rash within a day or two, Ekwueme said. Children tend to have less appetite or sore throat, she said.

Doctors said the virus can linger from a few days to a week or more.

-- Treatment: The rash typically “doesn't tend to be terribly itchy,” Ekwueme said. Goelzer said the itch usually isn't as bad as chicken pox.

“It's just a matter of making sure the rash doesn't get a secondary infection by scratching,” Goelzer said. “Just keep it clean.”

Because it is caused by a virus, doctors said the only treatment is “supportive care.” Viruses are not affected by antibiotics. That means making sure the child stays well hydrated, stays away from other people and takes Tylenol or ibuprofen for fever, Ekwueme said.

Spicy, acidic or other foods that can burn in the mouth should be avoided, she said.

Children with classic symptoms probably do not need to go to the doctor, doctors said. If there's a question about the severity or other concerns, they visit a doctor.

-- To avoid it: Good hand washing is key.

The virus usually is spread hand to mouth. Not washing hands after a diaper change can be one mode of transmission, Goelzer said.

The virus can be spread through sneezing, coughing, saliva and close contact, so sharing eating utensils and cups should be avoided, Ekwueme said.

Day cares are a hot spot because kids are constantly touching shared toys.

Kids with the virus should stay home, Ekwueme said, and they are contagious while they have the blisters with fluid.

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