By Esther Durand, BVI News Staff
Roughly one dozen early-childhood centres in the British Virgin Islands have been affected to date by the contagious Hand-foot-and-mouth disease.
National Epidemiologist, Harmony Brewley, told BVI News on Thursday that the viral disease — which affects both adults and children — is now a cause for concern locally.
“Why this is a concern for us is because the virus is evolving. So in the past, Hand-foot-and-mouth disease doesn’t usually result in death. But now we are seeing cases globally where the increase in mortality after contracting the disease,” Brewley said.
“It is not the Hand-foot-and-mouth disease we know from the years past. Viruses are always adapting to the genetic information from other viruses, and they could become more harmful,” she added.
Brewley said the timing of the outbreak is also worrying.
“It would usually affect children in the summer months or when school starts in September, but it is very odd that we are seeing it now proliferating in the colder months. We have over 10 daycares affected so far,” she said.
She explained that the disease could be contracted through any form of bodily secretion such as faeces, nose and throat secretion, or hugging an infected person.
Some of the symptoms include fever, reduced appetite, sore throat, rashes on the feet, elbows, buttocks and genital areas, etcetera.
How it is being contained
In the meantime, the National Epidemiologist said the Ministry of Health is working to contain the outbreak.
She told BVI News that they are currently conducting assessments of the various facilities and have partnered with the Environmental Health Division to educate the daycare workers on proper disinfection and sanitization methods.
Commencing next week, the Ministry of Health will be conducting sensitization programmes with parents and schools.
While no daycare centre has been closed so far, Brewley said affected facilities will be ordered temporarily closed if they fail to adhere to the sanitization practices and other preventative measures.
Keep sick children home
Meanwhile, parents are being urged to play their part in reducing the spread of this infectious disease. One way to do so is by keeping their sick children home.
“That has been a bone of contention between parents and the daycares because people need to go to work. However, children lives matter and you are putting other children’s lives at risk,” she explained.
She said while there is no known treatment for the disease, doctors can treat the symptoms.
Brewley said investigations are underway to determine what strain of the virus is currently being seen in the territory.
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