Hand, foot and mouth disease reported on increase in Pittsburgh area
A contagious viral illness is causing longer-lasting fevers, worse rashes and is sickening more children this summer in the Pittsburgh area, pediatricians say.
Hand, foot and mouth disease primarily strikes children younger than 10, spreading through close contact and bodily fluids such as saliva. At Children's Community Pediatrics South Hills in Bethel Park, physicians have been seeing about two patients every day for the past month, Dr. Michael Frac said.
He said that ranks among the clinic's heaviest case volumes for the disease in the past decade. Physicians there typically see about two cases a week during the summer, when the sickness tends to be more prevalent.
“It's just been our impression that a lot of it's been going through the day care centers,” Frac said. He said doctors have heard of many more cases informally from parents calling for guidance.
But public health officials said it's tough to know whether overall case numbers are up. Pennsylvania law does not classify hand, foot and mouth disease as a reportable ailment, so no formal tallies exist.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta did not respond to a request for comment.
“Sometimes we get calls about day care outbreaks, but we haven't heard anything lately,” said Dr. Karen Hacker, director of the Allegheny County Health Department. She called hand, foot and mouth a “pretty benign” disease that can look worse than it is.
The roughly weeklong sickness is rarely fatal. Doctors said it can start with a fever and lead to a blisterlike rash on the feet and hands. Sometimes it can cause sores on the inside of the mouth.
Apart from taking painkillers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, people with the disease can't do much but wait it out, Hacker said.
Still, experts advise some of those affected to see a doctor. They include babies under the age of 1 who have a fever, anyone with a fever that lasts more than two or three days, children with facial blisters near the eyes and people unable to drink sufficient fluids.
“There's no question we're seeing a lot more of it the last couple weeks and months than we've seen the rest of the year,” said Dr. Robin Gehris, chief of pediatric dermatologic surgery at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.
Gehris said longer-lasting fevers and more severe blisters that have appeared over the last couple of summers could stem from an especially strong strain of the virus. She and other doctors encourage adults and children to avoid the disease through frequent and thorough hand-washing, especially after using the bathroom or changing a diaper.
They also advise people to avoid putting their hands in their mouth. Children who come down with the illness should be isolated from other youngsters while they remain contagious, doctors said.
“The most important thing is making sure the child stays hydrated,” said Dr. Marian Michaels, who works in the pediatric infectious disease department at Children's Hospital. She said mouth sores can discourage sick kids from drinking enough fluids.
Hand, foot and mouth disease is unrelated to foot-and-mouth disease, which affects cattle, sheep and pigs, according to the CDC website.
Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Western Pennsylvania watchmaking company says worker safe in earthquake
- McKees Rocks council president arrested after SWAT standoff
- VA hospitals in Pittsburgh, Erie turn attention to female veterans’ needs
- Newsmaker: Leslie Geier
- Police arrest 2 after shots fired in North Side
- Duquesne University, union spar over labor laws
- Penn Hills School District brings on former employee as consultant
- It’s business, but not as usual in Pittsburgh
- Tuition freeze by 14 Pennsylvania-owned universities gets OK
- Work to begin on Fifth Avenue apartments in Uptown
- Baby makes arrival at fast food restaurant in Hazelwood