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Hand, foot and mouth disease spreading across Northeast Florida

Virus runs 7 to 10 days, hydration is key, doctor says

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FLEMING ISLAND, Fla. – Hand, foot and mouth disease is spreading through day cares and early childhood centers across Northeast Florida. And parents are scared and frustrated.

It's a rash that takes form as spots or bumps on the hands or feet, or lesions in the mouth.?

"It's just gotten worse and worse," said Brittany Weeks, whose 20-month-old son contracted the disease. "I've taken him to the emergency room twice in one day because he's just crying and crying, and I want someone to do something about it, but they just can't."

There have already been several cases reported in Mandarin, Hilliard, Fleming Island and Callahan.

Weeks' son, Jayce, goes to day care a few times a week, but her doctor said that's not the only place he could have contracted the disease. Children can even catch the virus from being at the park or on the playground.

"Honestly, I stay up all night crying with him, because I just don't know what to do, you know?" Weeks said. "So I just stick him in the bathtub, because that's the only thing that helps him."

Weeks said watching Jayce suffer for the past week has been agonizing.

"He probably only slept four hours last night, and it's just horrible," Weeks said.

Weeks said Jayce's symptoms started with bumps on his foot before he spiked a fever of 103 degrees. That's when she took him to the doctor, who diagnosed him with hand, foot and mouth disease.

"It started on his foot and basically it's just blisters, and he keeps itching it and itching it, and that pops the blisters, and then it gets worse and moves up his whole body, and it's bad on his butt," Weeks said. "It's now in his throat, hands and mouth really bad."

Dr. Kevin Kasych said he's seen a spike in the amount of children with the disease in the past couple of weeks but said there are ways parents can prevent it from spreading.

"Because kids at day care are all over each other, you do see an easy transmission for that," Kasych said. "Good hand-washing is supposed to prevent the spread and usually does a good job, but you can't stop every kid from putting their saliva on every other kid, so you'll see that that spreads in day cares."

He said parents may see a rash or fever the first couple of days and ulcers in the mouth on the third. The painful virus typically runs for 7 to 10 days and hydration is key.

"We want to keep the kids drinking as much as they can, preferably things with sugar in them," Kasych said. "So like a Gatorade or even a flat soda, because they may not be eating as well. ... It sounds terrible, and it may look bad, but it's really a viral infection to the body that the body can fight out on its own."

Kasych also said one of the things that parents need to look for is if their children are in an excessive amount of pain or are not staying hydrated. If they are not making tears, having wet diapers or aren't going the bathroom at least once every 12 hours, they are dehydrated and at risk for this disease and may need to see a doctor.