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Hand, foot and mouth disease is a viral infection commonly seen in children under the age of ten, but it occurs very infrequently in adults. The disease is highly contagious, however, and may be spread to an adult if he or she comes into contact with a contaminated surface or infected child. Most often the spread of this infection occurs because of a lack of good hygiene and because of contact with unsterilized surfaces that have been touched by an infected person.
Most commonly, hand, foot and mouth disease is an illness that affects toddlers. This disease is even more common in toddlers who attend some kind of day care. In places like day care, the number of children present can greatly increase the number of pathogens present in the environment, making it much easier for the disease to spread from child to child.
Even extremely mild exposure to the virus that cause hand, foot and mouth disease triggers the development of antibodies to protect against the virus. For this reason, most adults already carry antibodies built up that keep them from becoming infected. These antibodies are only able to protect against the strain of virus that was present at the initial exposure, though, so if an adult is exposed to another strain of the virus, he or she may be vulnerable to contracting the illness due to lack of immunity.
The symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease are generally not severe and may include fever, rash on the bottoms of the feet and on the palms, blisters in the mouth, and sore throat. Children suffering from the disease are often irritable and complain of discomfort. It may take up to a week for these symptoms to occur after a person has come into contact with the virus, and during this time the infected individual is highly contagious. It is very common for adults to show no symptoms at all while still carrying and spreading the virus.
Hand, foot and mouth disease is generally spread through contact with feces, saliva, or discharge from the throat or nose of affected individuals. It can also be transmitted from mother to baby during the birthing process if the mother carries the virus. If a child or adult does not use proper hand-washing techniques or fails to disinfect surfaces that have been touched by bodily fluids, the disease can spread. Most of the time, adults are much more likely to practice proper personal and environmental hygiene than are children under the age of ten, making it much harder for this disease to affect them.