Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) is a highly contagious infection. It is said that this disease is most common among young children, but get this; older children or adults are not excluded from the risk. The infection can easily spread from person-to-person through direct contact with unwashed hands or any contaminated surfaces.
HFMD can be unpleasant to have and it usually takes about seven to ten days to clear up. More than 23,000 HFMD cases were reported in Malaysia from January to August 2016. The Health Ministry also reported a spike of 644 cases per week. Due to the high number of cases, particularly from Selangor and Perak, alerts have been sent out by the ministry to create public awareness on the disease.
Children and adults infected with HFMD are quarantined at home for at least 10 days to prevent the infection from spreading. Sharing or using the same dining utensils should also be prevented so that the infection will not be passed down to family members.
Symptoms of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease
It usually begins with fever, a loss in appetite and sore throat. The painful sores and red spots will start after two days and then often become ulcers which will spread to the tongue, gums and inside of the cheeks. The ulcer can be very painful, making it difficult to eat, drink and swallow.
Rashes and blisters will soon appear after the mouth ulcers, with small red spots on the skin. It typically develops on the fingers, the backs or palms of the hand, and the soles of feet. This will turn into small blisters with a grey centre. Even worse, this occurrence will last up to 10 days and can be itchy as well as uncomfortable at times.
The best thing to do when you have HFMD is to stay at home until you feel better. There is no specific treatment for HFMD; it needs to run its course. During recovery stages, it is best to keep hydrated and eat soft foods such as mashed potatoes, yogurt or soup if eating makes the throat feel uncomfortable. Swishing warm salt water in the mouth is some of the home remedies that can help to relieve the pain coming from mouth ulcers and sore throat. Children can use mouth gels, rinse or spray but make sure to consult your doctor or pharmacist beforehand.
Preventing the disease from spreading to others
Someone with HFMD is most infectious just before the symptoms start until they begin to feel better. It is not always possible to avoid contracting the disease, but with simple hygiene steps, it can stop the spreading. Below are simple tips that can be carried out on a daily basis to avoid spreading the infection to one another.
- Use tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and then dispose the tissues promptly.
- Practise proper hand hygiene on a daily basis after using the washroom, as well as coughing, sneezing, handling nappies, and before preparing a meal.
- Refrain from sharing cups, utensils, towels and clothes.
- Use a bleach-based household cleaner to disinfect any area or object that might be contaminated. Wash your sheets separately in a hot wash to kill off any contamination.
The infection can be caused by different strains of viruses, so it is possible to occur more than once. Therefore, even after recovery, proper hygiene routine should still be carried out to prevent from contracting it again.
Community Orientation Hygiene Education Programme (COHEP) supports education in developing communities
Proper hygiene care is very important on a daily basis, but for some rural areas, they might not even have the basics such as access to clean water, soap or even the right facilities to carry out their business. With the lack of hygiene knowledge, they would not see the importance of maintaining a proper hygiene care.
COHEP is a Community Orientated Health Education Programme advocated by Rentokil Initial Malaysia to educate communities in developing neighbourhoods about the importance of personal and environmental hygiene. The vision is to improve the status and quality of the health conditions as well as providing opportunities for individuals to achieve their full potential. Falling sick affects the body by making it feel weak, interrupting the daily routine and ultimately causing the day to become less productive.
COHEP is an ongoing activity that has been around since 2009. Educational talks were carried in schools nationwide to create awareness about personal hygiene, feminine hygiene, hand, foot and mouth disease as well as Dengue. It targets different age groups from as young as primary to secondary school students.
In 2016, Rentokil Initial Malaysia’s COHEP programme has adopted nine schools all over Malaysia to help build a healthier community within the school. Hand soap, paper towel, toilet seat sanitise and waste bin are among the washroom facilities that Rentokil Initial Malaysia provides to these adopted schools.
As the expert in pest control and hygiene, Rentokil Initial Malaysia aims to make a difference to community with COHEP. And their theme “Better Futures” encompasses their objective to support the local communities in moving towards a better future. The theme also reflects Rentokil Initial’s brand through its alignment with company tagline: Protecting People, Enhancing Lives.
Hygiene Practices to avoid the risk of cross contamination
Illnesses such as hand, foot and mouth disease are usually common amongst children but with the educational help from COHEP, the infection can be handled with proper care or even prevented. Illnesses, diseases and infections work like a chain reaction, if it is not taken care of, it will spread easily from person to person.
The toilet sneeze effect is one of the few key topics that are rarely discussed. It happens when you flush the toilet without closing the lid, spewing germs to the entire washroom. It only takes 60 seconds for an average sized washroom to be covered with bacteria, urine and faecal matter. These droplets remain suspended in the air for several hours, allowing them to spread quickly throughout the washroom and be deposited on surfaces that are often touched, such as toilet seats, dispensers and handles.
Washroom surfaces and toilet bowl water remain contaminated with faecal bacteria even after repeated flushing. Initial’s hygiene experts have done numerous researches on the impacts of the sneeze effect and developed an effective system to reduce the risk. Let’s see how we can scale down the bacteria build up in washrooms with the tips below (2):
- Use a toilet seat cleaner to wipe the toilet seat before use.
- Protect toilet rolls with anti-microbial holders
- No-Touch feminine hygiene units with integral anti-microbial protection
- Wash hands for at least 20 seconds before leaving the washroom and use hand sanitisers for an extra layer of protection for the day.
It is always important to look after our hygiene as our health affects our productivity in our daily activities. Hand, foot and mouth disease is usually common in humid areas, with Malaysia having a humid temperature all year round. Hence, it is important to incorporate a proper hygiene routine into our daily lives to ensure a happy and healthy community that is free of illnesses, infections and diseases.