A mysterious disease that has killed nearly 60 children in Cambodia has been identified by the World Health Organization as enterovirus 71. This virus is one among a family of viruses that cause a variety of illnesses, including a common childhood illness called hand, foot and mouth disease, but Andrew Bonwit, MD, pediatric infectious disease specialist at Loyola University Health System, says a fatal outcome from such illness is rare.
"Hand, foot and mouth disease can be caused by enterovirus 71, but also by a number of other viruses from the larger family of enteroviruses. Polio, for instance, is from this group as well, but we don't see cases of the illness in the United States anymore, thanks to vaccination. Most children who develop hand, foot and mouth disease require little medical attention. It's a virus that just needs to run its course," said Bonwit.
Bonwit says he has heard of mild cases in clinics in the Chicago area, but that is to be expected.
According to Bonwit, symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease include:
•Sore throat and fatigue
•Sores inside the mouth and on the tongue, and often on the the hands, feet and sometimes on the buttock
•Lack of appetite
•Unwillingness to drink fluids
If a child is showing these symptoms Bonwit suggests calling the child's physician to see if he or she should be evaluated in person.