Public Health Communications Specialist
Ministry of Health/Social Development
The Environmental Health Division is heightening surveillance of early childhood centers across the Territory following the report of eight suspected cases of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD).
Symptoms of HFMD usually begin with a fever, sore throat, reduced appetite and a general feeling of being unwell. Within two days of the onset of symptoms, a rash and bumps may appear on the soles of the feet, palms of the hands and inside the mouth. A rash may also develop on the elbows, knees and buttocks. The bumps may blister but do not cause itching.
Chief Environmental Health Officer Mr. Lionel Michael encourages owners and teachers at early childhood centers, including parents, to be watchful for any HFMD symptoms, and to help curb the spread of the disease by implementing safety practices including washing hands often with soap and water, especially after changing diapers. Adults should help young children do the same.
Persons should avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Disinfect surfaces and objects, such as toys and doorknobs. Persons should also avoid close contact such as hugging, kissing and sharing eating utensils with persons who are infected with HFMD.
The Environmental Health Division has identified various contributing factors to the spread of the contagious and infectious diseases like HFMD through inspections and investigations. Those contributing factors include poor personal hygiene, poor cleaning and disinfection (Improper Infection Control), overcrowding, and non-adherence to Sick Policy.
The chief environmental health officer said that in addition to inspections, the department conducts teacher trainings to help curb the spread of infectious diseases. The division, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, conducts the trainings that focus on personal hygiene, child safety, infection control and food hygiene.
“The intent of the sessions is to introduce and refresh teachers of the essential practices required to keep themselves and our children safe and healthy,” said Mr. Michael.
Hand Foot and Mouth Disease is spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing, and contact with infected feces through the changing a diaper, or touching surfaces or objects which have been contaminated with the virus.
The Ministry of Health and Social Development is committed to improving the health of the people of the Virgin Islands.