Media hysteria is just plain wrong

A little more than two weeks ago, USA Today reported on what may soon become a mass hysteria: hand, foot and mouth virus. If you don’t have kids, are not a caregiver or do not work in the medical field, you may not know what this virus is.

According to the CDC, HFM usually affects children younger than five, though adults can get it as well. Symptoms may begin with a fever, a loss of appetite, sore throat and generally just not feeling well at all. Two days later ulcers usually appear in the back of the mouth, followed by a skin rash with raised red bumps that may blister on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, possibly even the knees, elbows, backs or diaper area. Not everyone will have every symptom.

Not every person infected will look like this, but this is one possibility

Transmission is much like any virus. Someone who is infected with HFM coughs on you, you share bodily fluids with an infected person, you don’t wash your hands after changing a dirty diaper or wiping of the genital area of an infected person and touch other objects.

There is not a vaccine for HFM, but there are preventives to reduce your risk.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after changing diapers and using the toilet. DO NOT RELY ON ONLY USING SANITIZER!!!

I cannot stress this enough! While sanitizer is wet the ingredients that kill 99.9% of germs will do just that, but once it dries all of that bacteria returns. The point of washing with soap and water is to disinfect your hands and wash the bacteria and virus causing germs down the drain.

  • Disinfect dirty surfaces and soiled items, including toys.

Again, wash everything with soap and water first then disinfect them with a solution of chlorine bleach (made by mixing 1 tablespoon of bleach and 4 cups of water).

  • Avoid close contact such as kissing, hugging, or sharing eating utensils or cups with people with hand, foot, and mouth disease.

There is also no magic pill that will get rid of HFM. Similar to the flu, you let it run its course. I am not saying don’t seek medical attention if you suspect you or your child is affected. The fevers can reach high temperatures and according to USA Today, Alabama state epidemiologist Mary McIntyre said,

“We’ve had 15 people hospitalized.” Some cases included “severe fevers, seizures, headaches, severe diarrhea and vomiting.”

You should also make your pediatrician or healthcare provider aware that you suspect HFM. They will need to document the case in your file and report any new symptoms or conditions of HFM.

Now that I have added to the media hysteria, let’s defuse the situation. “It can hit kids and adults hard, causing fingernails and toenails to fall off two to three weeks after the illness has passed.” Wow! I love how the media causes mass panic!  No where do they mention regrowth or how this has not been confirmed as a result of the disease. According to the CDC, nail loss has been reported within 4 weeks of having the disease, but regrowth occurred without the aid of medications.

“There is no treatment.” Mass hysteria ensues! A one liner phrase that will cause every parent to panic. No one wants to hear there is not treatment for anything. It escalates to “I’m sorry, but there is nothing we can do now except just to make her comfortable.” As I mentioned before, there is no magic pill. According to the CDC, some things can be done to relieve symptoms, such as

  • Taking over-the-counter medications to relieve pain and fever (Caution: Aspirin should not be given to children.)
  • Using mouthwashes or sprays that numb mouth pain

HFM is not something to just put aside and treat like it is nothing. There is cause for concern, but there is no need to cause a hysteria. If you suspect you, your child or someone else may have HFM keep track of all their signs and symptoms and contact your hcp. Also, visit the CDC’s website for more information about HFMD here.

This information came from our county health department’s lactation specialist: FYI…I’ve heard some questions about whether a mom can get hand, foot and mouth from breastfeeding. I called the InfantRisk Center and spoke w/ Colleen who consulted w/ Dr. Hale himself! His opinion was that if mom isn’t already immune, she’s going to get it whether she’s breastfeeding or not. So, hand, foot and mouth is not a reason to stop breastfeeding. From the cases I have read where mom got HFM on her breasts, it sounds like there was already some previous irritation/damage to the nipple and that became the entry point for the virus.

Here is the link to USA Today’s article on the matter. I am not bashing on making the public aware of what is going on, but their way of getting that information out, to me personally, is irresponsible. They are going to or already have caused people, parent’s in particular, to lose their mind when or if their child or someone they know contracts HFMD.
http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/story/2012-04-19/hand-foot-mouth-virus/54419854/1

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One thought on “Media hysteria is just plain wrong

  1. I had someone on twitter not like my opinion on this matter and it seems that maybe I wasn’t very clear to how I felt about this. I don’t disagree with people taking precautions to HFMD or treating it or telling those they’ve been having playdates with that their kid has tested positive for HFMD. This strain happens to be very dangerous. My whole point on this was that the media, imho,is causing hysteria where there is no need for hysteria. They were taking bits and pieces from CDC information on the current strain of HFMD and putting it together in a way that would make “news.”

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