Hand, foot and mouth disease on the rise in the Chattahoochee Valley

(WTVM) - While many people are focused on Ebola, there's a common viral infection that is on the rise for infants and young children under the age of five. Parents often mistake the disease as the flu.

A pediatrician from Columbus Regional says the height of hand, foot and mouth disease occurs in late summer and early autumn.

"So this is the time of the year when we see most patients with hand, foot and mouth disease," Dr. Richelle Gonzalez explained. "I've seen about 30 patients suffering from the disease this year so far."

Gonzalez said hand, foot and mouth disease creates ulcers inside the mouth and rashes on feet and hands.

"It's very contagious and that's where we see a rash of this disease spread in daycare centers and places with many children," Gonzalez said.

The disease starts with a sore throat and it's followed by a fever. The disease is rare in adults since most have already come in contact with that viral strain in their childhood as well.

"There is no medicine and there is no cure for it," Gonzalez explained. "It's a common virus and it's something that just has to run its course. So the main stay of treatment will be to provide supportive care."

Gonzalez also said parents need to look out for their kids' hydration status, if they come down with hand, foot and mouth disease.

"Those ulcers can be very painful and sore throat can be discomforting," Gonzalez explained. "Some children won't drink at all, so parents will have to encourage their kids to drink water."

There are preventive measures people can take to avoid hand, foot and mouth disease.

"The best way to prevent the disease is to wash your hands as well as your kids' hands for about 20 seconds with soap," Gonzalez explained. "Help your children rest at home when they are sick and limit their contact with other kids."

Gonzalez also said it's important for parents to disinfect toys, doorknobs, desks and other frequently touched surfaces. Children infected with hand, foot and mouth disease need to avoid close contact with others to protect them from hand, foot and mouth disease.

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