Spread of the Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

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The hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) is fast-spreading, with cases first discovered in Penang last week. While there has been some improvement over the number of cases since last week, it is still at a concerning rate and precautions need to be taken.

It was reported last Friday that the number of HFMD cases recorded stood at 33, 425, with the Health Ministry’s director-general, Datuk Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah noting that with the exception of Sabah and Sarawak, all states have seen an increased number of cases compared to last year.

“On the fourth day of the epidemiology week 29/2018, which was July 18, 722 HFMD cases were reported; while on July 17, 18 premises were closed, involving six child care centres and 12 kindergartens.

“This brings to 419 premises that have been closed so far, comprising 198 child care centres, 197 kindergartens and 23 schools,” said Noor Hisham.

It was revealed today that the hand, foot and mouth disease outbreak in Penang was found on supermarket trolleys’ handlebars and child ride equipment, as discovered by the state’s health inspectors that were put to task to finding out how the virus spread.

“We recorded 78 cases on Wednesday, followed by 52 and 51 on Thursday and Friday. However, the cumulative number of cases is still high at 2,341 so far this year compared to 1,099 cases in 2017 over the same period,” said Dr Afif Bahardin, the Penang State Health Committee Chairman at a press conference yesterday, adding that nine victims were undergoing treatment in hospitals.

This is after the Penang Health Department had instructed malls in Penang to sanitise trolleys, child rides, and public benches. 30 premises remained closed –  comprising 10 kindergartens, seven nurseries, six primary schools, six preschools and a childcare centre – since the outbreak early this month.

It was also reported on Tuesday, July 22, that there were 1,446 HMFD cases recorded this year in Melaka, nearly a 50% rise compared to the same period last year.

Symptoms of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease may cause all of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Feeling of being unwell (malaise)
  • Painful, red, blister-like lesions on the tongue, gums and inside of the cheeks
  • A red rash, without itching but sometimes with blistering, on the palms, soles and sometimes the buttocks
  • Irritability in infants and toddlers
  • Loss of appetite

The incubation period is three to six days. A fever is usually the first sign, followed by a sore throat. Painful sores may develop in the front of the mouth or throat. Rashes can appear on the hands and feet, and possibly on the buttocks.


It spreads by person-to-person contact with an infected person’s:

  • Nasal secretions or throat discharge
  • Saliva
  • Fluid from blisters
  • Stool
  • Respiratory droplets sprayed into the air after a cough or sneeze

Precautions to reduce the risk of infection include:

  • Washing hands carefully, frequently, and thoroughly.
  • Disinfect common areas.
  • Teach good hygiene to kids.
  • Isolate contagious people until fever is gone and mouth sores healed. Quarantine children at home for 10 days so as not to infect others.

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