Several cases of hand, foot and mouth disease reported in North Florida

Nassau County day care is posting warning signs

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – Hand, foot and mouth disease is spreading so fast in North Florida that daycare centers in Nassau County have signs posted warning about the virus. Caretakers have seen several cases of hand foot and mouth disease in the month of August, according to health officials.

The virus usually affects children under 5-years-old, but can also occur in older kids and adults.

Symptoms can start with a fever then may develop into a red rash on hands and feet. Some infected with the virus also get sores in and around their mouths, according to experts. 

The singer, Pink, posted a picture of her young son, Jameson, who was infected with the virus.

The Nassau County Health Department posted the warning signs after reports of several cases in the area. Kirstey Wilkewietz's son is now getting over the virus.

"I felt so bad. He just would sit there and cry and like there’s literally nothing I could do. (It) was breaking my heart. I can’t do anything and I felt really bad," Wilkewietz said.

Her 11-month old got a rash all over his body, but that rash wasn't the first thing that tipped her off that something wasn’t right.

"It got to where he wasn’t eating. He wasn’t drinking. He wasn’t taking a bottle, wouldn’t sleep at all. He didn’t sleep for three days. He wasn’t wetting his diaper," said Wilkewietz.

Parents are urged to keep their children away from others if they contract hand, foot and mouth disease.

"(The) big deal is it spreads like wildfire because you’re off and contagious before you can say anything, and there’s a lot of children who have Hand Foot Mouth and don’t even have symptoms," said 
Dr. Rebecca Cooper with Beaches Pediatrics.

Cooper said it’s spread through touch most of the time. The problem is kids are contagious days before symptoms show up so it’s almost impossible not to spread it.

"What helps though is thorough hand washing, especially after changing a diaper," said Cooper.  

Another problem with the virus is that there's no treatment. The only thing parents can do is to make sure their child stays hydrated, which may be difficult if they have sores in their mouth.

Experts suggest giving infected children smooth soothing drinks like milkshakes and avoiding juices which may burn sores in their mouths.

If you think your child may have hand foot and mouth, disease experts suggest you take them to the doctor right away.

The virus can be diagnosed with a saliva or feces sample.

"There is no vaccine to prevent hand, foot and mouth disease. Routine hygiene (soap and water washing of the hands) is a primary strategy to limit transmission of the virus. Cleaning a child's toys (especially those which would be placed into the mouth or drooled upon) is important. Avoidance of direct saliva exposure (kissing, sharing eating utensils, etc.) is also very helpful to limit transmission. Since transmission of the virus is also possible via stool, wearing disposable gloves during changing of diapers is also beneficial," said Dr. John Mersch. 

He said once exposed to the virus, those who develop symptoms and signs will do so within one to three days. They are most contagious during the first week of the illness. However, the virus may continue to be shed for one to three weeks in respiratory secretions (saliva and/or nasal mucous) and in the stool for two to eight weeks after the primary infection. 

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