Last May (see CDC Issues HFMD Travel Notice For Vietnam) the CDC took notice of the rising number of HFMD (Hand, Foot, & Mouth Disease) cases in Vietnam this spring, and issued an `In the News’ notice.
The CDC issues four levels of travel health notices (`In The News’, Outbreak Notice, Travel Health Precaution) and Travel Health Warning). The lowest threat level belongs to the category called `In The News’.
HFMD Is a generally mild childhood illness caused by one of several enteroviruses, but most commonly Coxsackie A16 virus. Another virus – EV71 – has been linked to a more severe form of HFMD, and it has sparked a number of serious outbreaks across Asia (see The Emerging Threat Of EV71).
Reports of HFMD infections have continued to emerge out of Vietnam, China, Japan, and a number of other Southeast Asian nations. Last week the World Health Organization (see WPRO: HFMD Situation Update) released HFMD numbers from several countries for the first half of 2012.
Another high profile outbreak this year claimed the lives of more than 60 Cambodian children, which was eventually determined to be due to a serious form of HFMD (see WHO/Cambodian MOH Announcement On HFMD Outbreak).
All of which serves as prelude to yesterday’s CDC update on Vietnam’s HFMD situation.
This information is current as of today, July 24, 2012 at 04:30 EDT
Updated: July 23, 2012
What Is the Current Situation?
As of June 10, 2012, the Vietnam Ministry of Health confirmed that approximately 57,800 people in 63 provinces have had hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) since the beginning of 2012; 29 people in 14 provinces died. More HFMD cases have occurred in the northern region of Vietnam. However, there have been more HFMD-associated deaths in the southern region. The Vietnam Ministry of Health is working with World Health Organization to control the outbreak.
Large outbreaks of severe HFMD occur frequently in some countries in Asia. Thousands of people may get infected during these outbreaks. Some people, particularly young children, may have severe disease requiring hospitalization or even causing death. Maintaining good hygiene, including hand washing, can help lower your risk of getting sick.
To learn more about outbreaks occurring around the world, visit the World Health Organization’s website.
How Can Travelers Protect Themselves?
There is currently no vaccine or medicine to prevent HFMD. However, you can protect yourself from HFMD by practicing healthy personal hygiene.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially before eating and after going to the bathroom or changing a diaper. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand cleaner with at least 60% alcohol. Consider packing alcohol-based hand cleaner in your carry-on luggage to ensure you have it when needed.
- Disinfect dirty surfaces and soiled items. If you are able, first wash the items with soap and water; then disinfect them with a solution of chlorine bleach(made by mixing 1 tablespoon of bleach with 4 cups of water) or a cleaning product that contains bleach.
- Avoid close contact such as kissing, hugging, or sharing eating utensils or cups with people who have HFMD.
While not apparently as pathogenic as the EV71 strain, a new enterovirus – first detected in Finland in 2008 - has recently shown up in the United States (see HFMD: An Old Illness With A New Cause) that can cause more severe cases of HFMD.
You’ll find additional coverage of this emerging strain in MMWR: Coxsackievirus A6 Notes From The Field.
A not-so-gentle reminder that well-adapted emerging viruses are very good at spreading, and that with today’s highly mobile society, oceans and borders provide little in the way of protection.