WHO warns of growing threat from severe form of hand, foot and mouth disease

News release

MANILA, 22 June 2010—The World Health Organization (WHO) has observed a significant increase in the number of cases of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD), including the more severe form caused by the Enterovirus 71 (EV71), in some parts of the Western Pacific Region.

The increase, around 2 to 3 times the number of cases experienced in 2009, has been reported in China, Hong Kong (China), Japan and Singapore. Cases affected by EV71, commonly linked with the severe form of the illness, have been reported in China, Hong Kong (China), Japan and Korea.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is mainly a childhood condition, and spreads easily through contact with mucus, saliva and feces. Although the disease is generally mild and self limiting, complications may arise in some cases and result in more severe symptoms and even death.

A WHO risk assessment suggests that the number of severe cases of HFMD due to EV71 may continue to rise in the Western Pacific Region—with a greater impact in areas where disease recognition and response is delayed. This is seen particularly in rural areas or regions with poor training of health care workers and insufficient health care capacity.

Early detection and intervention are key to minimizing the impact of the disease as currently there is no specific anti-viral therapy or vaccine available for any form of HFMD. WHO called on Member States to step up surveillance efforts for early detection and implementation of prevention measures. For individuals, the risk of the infection can be lowered by following good hygiene practices.

For more on HFMD

For more information, please email: http://www.wpro.who.int/quick_links/email?page=http%3a%2f%2fwww.wpro.who.int%2fsites%2fcsr%2foverview.htm