Hand foot and mouth disease rife in Singapore

According to reports in the media, Singapore is facing a possible outbreak of Hand Foot and Mouth disease (HFMD).

There have been 553 people now affected by the virus in the current outbreak, a rise of over a hundred from last week, which only just falls short of the Health Ministry's official "epidemic level".

Government health officials say a 3-year-old Malay boy died from HFMD earlier this month and an active cluster was identified at the kindergarten he attended.

The kindergarten was immediately closed to allow the necessary cleaning and disinfection to be carried out.

By the 2nd of August 2008 the Health Ministry says the total number of cases had reached 17,435 for the first 31 weeks of this year.

Singapore's health authorities have stressed the importance of maintaining high standards of personal and environmental hygiene to minimise the risk of HFMD and parents are advised to ensure that their children wash their hands with soap before eating and after going to the toilet; cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and not share eating utensils.

Toys or appliances that may be contaminated by nasal or oral secretions should be cleaned before they are used again and should a child develop a fever, mouth ulcers and rashes on the palms, soles or buttocks, a doctor must be consulted.

Children affected must be kept away from other children kept away from school, the child care centre or other pre-school centres and not taken to any public or crowded place.

HFMD is a common childhood infection which is usually mild, however when the virus involved is the EV71 strain, it can affect the brain and result in death, although such a complication is rare.

Singapore has experienced a surge of HFMD cases involving EV71 this year and a total of 35 preschools and childcare centres were ordered to close while 95 premises were forced to undergo a thorough cleaning to break the chain of transmission.

A continuously maintained high standard of personal and environmental hygiene is essential to break the transmission of HFMD, including EV 71.

To date this year HFMD has killed 44 people in China, 10 in Taiwan and 11 in Vietnam.

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