Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) is a common
illness of infants and children.
Malaise ("feeling sick")
Skin rash with
One or two days after the fever begins, sores
develop in the mouth:
They begin as small red spots
that blister and then often become ulcers.
usually located on the tongue, gums and inside of
The skin rash develops over one to two
days with flat or raised red spot, some with blisters.
The rash does not itch and is usually located on the
palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
It may also
appear on the buttocks.
A person with HFMD may
have only the rash or the mouth ulcers.
Is HFMD the same as foot-and-mouth disease?
No. HFMD is a different disease than foot and
mouth disease of cattle, sheep and swine. Although
the names are similar, the two diseases are not
related at all and are caused by different viruses.
Is HFMD serious?
Usually not. Nearly all people with HFMD recover
without medical treatment. HFMD usually resolves
in seven to 10 days. There are no common complications.
Rarely, this illness may be associated
with aseptic or viral meningitis, in which the person
Stiff neck or back pain
need to be hospitalized for a few days
What causes HFMD?
Several different viruses cause HFMD.
common cause is coxsackievirus A16
Other causes are:
Other strains of coxsackievirus A
The coxsackieviruses are members of a
group of viruses called the enteroviruses.
Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease enterovirus group includes:
Is it contagious?
Yes, HFMD is moderately contagious.
spread from person to person by direct contact with
nose and throat discharges or the stool of infected
A person is most contagious during the first
week of the illness.
HFMD is not transmitted to or
from pets or other animals.
How soon will someone become ill after
The usual period from infection to onset of
symptoms is three to six days. Fever is often the first
symptom of HFMD.
Who is at risk for HFMD?
HFMD occurs mainly in children under 10 years old, but adults may also be at risk. Everyone is
susceptible to infection.
Infection results in immunity
to the specific virus, but a second episode may occur
following infection with a different member of the
When and where does HFMD occur?
Individual cases and outbreaks of HFMD occur
worldwide, more frequently in summer and early
How is HFMD diagnosed?
HFMD is one of many infections that result in mouth
Another common cause is oral herpesvirus
infection, which produces an inflammation of the mouth and gums (sometimes called stomatitis).
Usually, the doctor can distinguish between
HFMD and other causes of mouth sores based on the age of the patient, the pattern of symptoms reported
by the patient or parent, and the appearance of the
rash and sores on examination.
A throat swab or stool specimen may be sent to a laboratory to
determine which enterovirus caused the illness.
Since the testing often takes two to four weeks to
obtain a final answer, the doctor usually does not
order these tests.
How is HFMD treated? Can it be prevented?
No specific treatment is available for this infection. Symptomatic treatment is given to provide relief from fever, aches or pain from the mouth ulcers.
Preventive measures include:
Frequent hand washing,
especially after diaper changes
contaminated surfaces by household cleaners
Washing soiled articles of clothing
often excluded from child care programs, schools or
other group settings during the first few days of the
illness. These measures may reduce the spread of
infection, but they will not completely interrupt it.
Where can I get more information?
Contact your doctor or the Southern Nevada Health District, Office of Epidemiology at (702) 759-1300.
The above information is from the Division of Viral and
Rickettsial Diseases, National Center for Infectious Diseases,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.