Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Senior Consultant in Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Dr Hussam Al Soub, is urging Qatar residents to practice good personal hygiene to prevent themselves, and their children, from contracting contagious diseases such as hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD).

Dr Al Soub said:

Hand, foot and mouth disease usually starts with a fever, poor appetite, a vague feeling of being sick (malaise) and a sore throat. Symptoms of the disease include fever (high temperature), blister-like sores in the mouth and a skin rash. The rash is usually on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet; it may also appear elsewhere on the limbs and buttocks. Those infected with the viruses that cause hand, foot and mouth disease may not experience all the symptoms of the disease.’

The common viral illness, which usually affects infants and children younger than five years of age, is rarely seen in adults. It is unusual, but possible, to get HFMD more than once. While it can be an unpleasant condition, especially for young children, it does not usually pose a serious threat to health. HFMD can occur at any time of the year but is most common in the summer and fall.

A person with HFMD is highly contagious until about a week after the symptoms first appear. The viruses that cause the condition are normally acquired about three days before the symptoms first appear and HFMD is thought to remain infectious until the associated rash disappears; however, those with the condition should be excluded from group settings, including being kept home from school or nursery. The virus is spread by direct contact with nose and throat discharges, blisters and feces; including through diapers and contaminated objects and surfaces.

Dr Al Soub explains:

While most patients will no longer be infectious after a week, some can remain contagious for many days or weeks after their symptoms disappear. Also, some people, especially infected adults, may not develop any symptoms but may still be contagious. This is why it is important to always maintain good hygiene, including frequently washing your hands with soap and water. A person can lower their risk of getting HFMD through frequent hand washing and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and soiled items, including toys and through avoiding close contact or sharing eating utensils or cups with affected people.’

Teaching children good hand washing habits can be a challenge. There are numerous techniques used to encourage children to understand the importance of good hand hygiene, including hand washing songs, posters, stickers, reward charts, videos and orchestrated campaigns.

According to Dr Al Soub, there is no specific antiviral therapy available to treat HFMD and no vaccine has been developed against it. He said:

The condition is self-limiting and usually passes within seven days. Treatment is mainly supportive. If you have questions about the condition, you should contact your doctor.’

HMC has been the principal public healthcare provider in the state of Qatar for over three decades and is dedicated to delivering the safest, most effective and compassionate care to all patients. HMC manages eight hospitals, incorporating five specialist hospitals and three community hospitals. HMC also manages the National Ambulance Service as well as home and residential care, all accredited by Joint Commission International. While HMC continues to upgrade its facilities and services, it has also embarked on an ambitious expansion programme, targeting the areas of need in the community.