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Gulf Coast Children, Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease

(BAY MINETTE, Ala.) – The Baldwin County School System issued an advisory to parents Tuesday about an unusual outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease.

A school system spokesperson said the virus is common, and they see a few cases each year. No new cases have been reported recently in Baldwin County, but six were reported before Christmas break. "We sent out word this morning relaying a health department release to make parents aware of this," Baldwin County Schools Spokesperson Terry Wilhite said.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, HFMD cases are more numerous and severe than normal in Alabama this winter, and there have been hospitalizations due to the virus. No known deaths have resulted from the virus, but there can be some rare, severe complications.

ADPH officials said tests done this month by the Centers for Disease Control have revealed that the Coxsackie A6 virus has been identified. The specific type of HFMD is found in other countries, but not in the United States.

Wilhite said they can’t confirm that the six cases in Baldwin County are related to other cases from across the state, and parents should not be too alarmed about the recent outbreak. "We just can’t stress good hygiene enough," Wilhite said, "and, if your child’s sick, keep him or her at home. That’s the most important thing that you can do."

According to the ADPH, symptoms of the disease include fever, rash, sores, poor appetite and a vague feeling of illness and sore throat. Painful sores in the mouth may blister and become ulcers. Skin rash, flat or raised red spots, develops over one to two days. Rash usually occurs on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet and may appear on the knees, elbows, bottom or genital area. Dehydration may occur because of the painful mouth sores. ADPH officials said the disease usually infects infants and children younger than five years old in summer and early autumn. Elberta Resident Michele Harmon said she noticed small bumps on her daughter Katrina, a kindergarten student at Elberta Elementary, just before the Christmas break. "She had this little sore come up on her lip, and I thought, well, she’s run a fever from strep. Maybe it’s a cold sore or something." Harmon said though her daughter was suffering from strep throat at the time, a visit to the doctor revealed that her daughter was suffering from HFMD; a virus that has no cure. "I was told there’s really nothing you can do," Harmon said. "It’s just a virus, and it will run its course." Though Katrina’s symptoms vanished in a few days, it is what happened six weeks later that had Harmon worried. "She came back a couple of days later and she was like, ‘Mommy look at my finger nail,’ and we looked at it and it was completely turned loose from the nail bed," Harmon said. "Now we have a new fingernail growing, but she also has a toenail that’s doing the same thing on her foot." Harmon said online forums revealed it as a side effect of the virus. "Basically said that it was like a side effect at the end of it," Harmon said. "That some kids lose all of their nails on their hands and their toes."

Though Baldwin County School Officials said the six cases found before the holidays are scattered throughout the county, Harmon said teachers at Elberta Elementary told her they’ve had a couple of cases. "When I notified her teacher at school about it she told me then that there had been two or three other students in her class that had the same thing going on," Harmon said.

The ADPH said there is no specific treatment for hand, foot and mouth disease.


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