Protecting patients from hand, foot and mouth disease – David Gibson – EschmannFeatured Products Promotional Features
Posted by: The Probe 1st September 2019
Outbreaks of infectious diseases within the UK remain a regular occurrence. Though these are usually minor illnesses such as colds and coughs, some are more serious conditions that can cause other complications or be very painful for sufferers.
The latest of these is an outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease. Easily spread and causing a number of nasty symptoms, this viral infection is one worth protecting against, especially in dental practices as these sorts of environments give viruses the perfect opportunity to spread to a large number of people.
Cases on the rise
Spreading as quickly in the news as it did amongst people throughout the UK, the tail end of 2018 saw a huge increase in cases of hand, foot and mouth disease – especially in Somerset. Multiple reports were published on the outbreak, and these detailed that these cases were likely spreading through school environments and because people were not following the correct hygiene protocols to prevent the spread of the virus.[i]
Though the virus is relatively common anyway, it is unusual for it to affect so many individuals at the same time, meaning that extra vigilance defending against the virus in the future is necessary.
So what is hand, foot and mouth disease?
Not to be confused with foot and mouth disease (the devastating viral infection that affects cattle and other livestock) hand, foot and mouth disease is a viral infection that primarily affects children – especially those under the age of ten. However, people of all ages can catch the disease, particularly those who did not have the disease during childhood.
Though the virus usually only lasts a week or two, during this time sufferers experience nasty symptoms that can quickly lead to other problems if the condition is not treated properly.
What are the symptoms?
Hand, foot and mouth disease lives up to its name by exhibiting symptoms primarily in those three locations on the body. Symptoms tend to begin to appear 10 days after infection from the virus, and start with a general feeling of being unwell and pain in the abdomen, which can be accompanied by a cough, a fever and a sore throat.[ii]Obviously, these signs are symptomatic of many viral illnesses, and this is why it is so difficult to identify and take action against hand, foot and mouth disease in the preliminary stages.
Past this initial onset of symptoms, the disease then begins to become more distinct, and more serious symptoms will begin to appear such as nasty blisters and ulcers in the mouth and vibrant red spots and blisters on hands and feet that often cause great pain or can be unbearably itchy. This spotty rash can also spread over the rest of the body.
These blisters and ulcers may easily become infected if they are popped and scratched, and ulcers can cause children to be unable to eat or drink without great pain, possibly leading to dehydration if fluid levels aren’t maintained.
More seriously, in some rare cases the disease may be caused by a more severe strain of the enterovirus 71 (EV71) – and this can lead to the disease turning into other, far more threatening conditions such as meningitis and encephalitis, both of which can be fatal.[iii]
Easy to catch, easy to spread
The main problem with hand, foot and mouth disease is that it is incredibly easy to spread. As well as being transferable via droplets of saliva expelled from coughing or sneezing, the virus can also be spread via liquids formed in the blisters and ulcers. When these sores rupture the infectious liquid is easily transferred to surfaces, and once there easily spreads the virus to other people simply by touch.
Worryingly, the virus can live inside people for a long time even when symptoms have stopped, and will be present in people’s faeces for a few weeks even once they look like they’ve recovered. If these individuals do not practice proper hand hygiene during this period, the virus can be easily transferred this way too.[iv]
As such, it’s imperative that dental practices follow the correct decontamination protocols and enforce a thorough practice-wide cleaning schedule. Surfaces and items, especially those often touched by young patients such as toys or those in the bathroom should be thoroughly cleaned on a very regular basis. Any equipment used during the treatment of patients, especially those that seem to be exhibiting any signs of the virus, should be decontaminated using a reliable autoclave like the new Little Sister SES 2020N from EschmannDirect.
Limit the outbreak potential
Although hand, foot and mouth disease is not particularly threatening to the majority of individuals, this recent outbreak of the virus shows that it can still impact a large amount of individuals. Dental practices need to remain vigilant against these sorts of threats through the use of proper decontamination procedures, by doing so playing their part in ensuring that outbreaks don’t spread further.
For more information on the highly effective and affordable range of decontamination equipment and products from EschmannDirect, please visit www.eschmann.co.uk or call 01903 753322
[i]Express. Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease OUTBREAK: Virus Spreads Across UK – Symptoms to Watch Out For. Link: https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/1041512/hand-foot-and-mouth-disease-uk-outbreak-virus-infection-symptoms-signs[Last accessed November 18].
[ii]Bupa. Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. Link: https://www.bupa.co.uk/health-information/childrens-health/hand-foot-and-mouth[Last accessed November 18].
[iii]Government of South Australia. SA Health. Enterovirus 71 (EV71) Infection – Including Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention. Link: https://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/public+content/sa+health+internet/health+topics/health+conditions+prevention+and+treatment/infectious+diseases/enterovirus+71+ev71+infection[Last accessed November 18].
[iv]Bupa. Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. Link: https://www.bupa.co.uk/health-information/childrens-health/hand-foot-and-mouth[Last accessed November 18].
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