Tough strain of hand, foot and mouth virus hitting U.S.
Worried parents are phoning their pediatricians, fearful of the spread of a nasty new strain of hand, foot and mouth virus, a common childhood disease.
It hit Alabama last month, is in Northern California now and may be headed to a day care near you soon.
The hand, foot and mouth virus that usually causes a slight fever and a rash on the palms in toddlers is called coxsackie A16. The new variant, A6, was first reported in the United States in December. It can hit kids and adults hard, causing fingernails and toenails to fall off two to three weeks after the illness has passed.
The variant swept Alabama in March, state epidemiologist Mary McIntyre said. "We've had 15 people hospitalized," she said. Some cases included "severe fevers, seizures, headaches, severe diarrhea and vomiting." The oldest patient was 69.
There is no treatment.
Hand, foot and mouth disease is no relation to hoof and mouth disease, an animal illness.
Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that some victims have been hospitalized for severe pain. The virus is highly contagious. Writing on a parent e-mail list, one San Francisco mom said her toddler infected every child but one in her preschool.
Eric Meyerson's 2-year-old son had garden-variety hand, foot and mouth disease this fall. Then a second bout felled the San Francisco boy this week. "He had fever and sores and was complaining that the inside of his mouth was hurting," Meyerson said. The family pediatrician identified the illness as coxsackie A6.
The new variant is "redder and more angry-looking" than A16, said Dan Kelly, Meyerson's pediatrician. The lesions are "fleshy and bigger and can run together so they cover the hands and feet," he said. Most of the children he sees have a fever between 101 and 103 degrees and a rash for three to five days. About 25% of the cases he has heard about are in adults.
The first U.S. cases appear to have arrived in December, said Carol Glaser, chief of the special investigation section of the California Department of Public Health. Doctors didn't know what they were. DNA analysis showed the culprit was A6, which popped up in Finland in 2008 and later in Taiwan. There was an outbreak in Japan in 2011.
Now that word is getting out, Glaser said, she's hearing reports from around the country, including Nevada, New York and Massachusetts.
To see more of USAToday.com, or to subscribe, go to http://www.usatoday.com
Copyright 2012 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
Disclaimer: References or links to other sites from Wellness.com does not constitute recommendation or endorsement by Wellness.com.
We bear no responsibility for the content of websites other than Wellness.com.