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Hand-foot-and-mouth alert issued

The government issued an alert against the rapidly spreading hand-foot-and-mouth disease on Saturday, asking nurseries, kindergartens and medical facilities to take extra care to prevent the infection of children.

According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the HFMD diagnosis rate marked 21.1 per every 1,000 outpatients last week, marking a sharp increase from 9.8 per 1,000 last month.

“The disease is quite common at this time of the year. But this year, the spread is unusually fast and high. Last year at its peak, it only marked 12.8 per 1,000,” the center said in a press release.

The authorities asked families and facilities with children under 6 years old to take extra care on personal hygiene to prevent further spread of the disease.

According to the U.S. CDC report, HFMD is caused by viruses that belong to the enterovirus group. It is spread from person to person by direct contract with the virus. Unwashed, virus-contaminated hands are the biggest culprit in spreading the virus.

HFMD has little effect on adults but can be serious for infants and children.

The disease causes fever and blister-like eruptions in the mouth and other parts of the skin. It usually begins with a fever, poor appetite, and sore throat, followed by sores in the mouth.

No vaccination is available against the enteroviruses. People are advised to wash hands frequently; clean dirty surfaces and soiled items including toys; and avoid close contact with persons with HFMD.

By Bae Ji-sook (