While many parents have expressed concern over recent cases of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease at schools throughout Sweetwater County, school officials say the illness is common and does not present a big risk to most people.
Leanna Lovato, RN, a school nurse at Sweetwater County School District #1, said Hand, Foot, and Mouth is generally a mild virus which presents as dots on the skin. How the virus presents is on a case-by-case basis, and some people who contract it may develop small blisters on fingers, hands, mouth, feet, or the buttocks. Lovato said cases with blisters that break open are uncommon.
Those with Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease may experience cold-like symptoms such as a sore throat, coughing, runny nose, and fever.
Lovato said schools see Hand, Foot, and Mouth every year, although they have seen a few more cases this year than in the past.
“This is a common virus. It goes around all the time,” said Lovato. “And it’s far less dangerous than the flu.”
Lovato said the district recommends that kids get the flu shot to prevent getting the flu, which is a far more dangerous illness for children than Hand, Foot, and Mouth.
Lovato said most kids who have Hand, Foot, and Mouth can still attend school. Those who show symptoms like open blisters, fever, or are too ill to focus on school are asked to stay home.
Students who feel well and do not have a fever are still able to attend school.
Lovato said keeping kids home is not an effective way to prevent the spread of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease because many people who have it show no symptoms.
The most effective way to prevent the spread of Hand, Foot, and Mouth is constant handwashing using proper handwashing techniques. It is important to wash hands after using the bathroom or blowing your nose.
Other ways to prevent the spread of the virus include covering your mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing (or using your shoulder if a tissue is unavailable) and disposing of tissues immediately after they are used.
Any parents with concerns about Hand, Foot, and Mouth are encouraged to contact their school nurse or a physician.