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Docs see disease outbreak

Covington County is experiencing an outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease, local pediatricians said Thursday.

Dr. Bhagwan Bang of South Alabama Pediatrics in Opp said other Alabama counties are reporting similar cases, as well.

Hand foot mouth disease is a common viral illness that usually affects infants and children younger than 5 and can be contracted by not washing one’s hands properly.

Bang said the disease strain currently circulating locally has caused extensive and larger-than-normal lesions on the hands, feet and mouth. He said cases in adults have also been noted.

He said the same strain – the Coxsackie A6 virus – reportedly caused a 2008 epidemic in Finland, a 2004 and 2008 epidemic in Taiwan, and this year for the first time in the U.S.

“It usually starts with a fever, poor appetite, malaise and sore throat, painful sores in the mouth, on the palms of hands and soles of feet,” Bang said. “It also appears on the knees, elbows and buttocks, and can also cause dehydration due to the inability to swallow fluid.”

Bang said his office has seen several cases – two of which were confirmed as the disease by the Centers for Disease Control.

“This isn’t something that should scare parents,” Bang said. “They should just be aware of it and take precautions against it. The easiest way to stop the spread of this disease is by simply washing your hands after changing a dirty diaper, disinfecting a dirty surface and avoiding close contact with someone who is infected.”

Those at Covington Pediatrics in Andalusia have seen similar cases, which they attribute to the unseasonably warm weather.

The virus should not be confused with foot-and-mouth disease (also called hoof-and-mouth disease), a disease of cattle, sheep and swine. The two diseases are caused by different viruses and are not related.

Those concerned about symptoms should contact their health care provider.