Hand Foot Mouth Disease (HFMD)

by Lee, Mei Chen


Hand Foot Mouth Disease (HFMD) is an infectious disease caused by intestinal viruses, the most common being the Coxsackie virus Enterovirus 71. The symptoms of HFMD include fever, sore throat and runny nose, rash on the hands, feet and buttocks, mouth ulcers, lack of appetite, vomiting and diarrhoea and tiredness or weakness.

Both adults and children can be affected but children under the age of five are most susceptible. The disease is transmitted by direct contact with nasal discharge, saliva, faeces or fluid from the rash of an infected person. HFMD can also spread through indirect contact with toys, towels, eating utensils and other items used by an infected individual.

There is no specific treatment for HFMD except for symptomatic ones such as fever control. Most HFMD patients will recover in seven to ten days as the disease is usually mild and self-limiting. But it can also lead to rare complications such as inflammation of the brain and heart, especially among younger children.

HFMD is a common disease in Singapore. At the peak of a HFMD outbreak in October 2000, an average of 1,140 cases were reported each week. As a result, nurseries and kindergartens were closed for two weeks as a measure to prevent the spread of the disease. Since September 2000, seven children have succumbed to the disease. In October 2000, HFMD became a legally notifiable disease.

In order to monitor the HFMD situation in Singapore, all hospitals and doctors are required to inform the Ministry of Health of cases of HFMD infection. The Ministry of the Environment will carry out epidemiological investigations of reported cases while both the Environment Ministry and the Ministry of Community Development and Sports will carry out inspections on the health and hygiene standards of child care centres, nurseries and kindergartens. Enforcement actions have been implemented against those who fail to comply with the guidelines and regulations.

Lee Mei Chen

Childcare centres get no rest at all. (2000, October 11). The Straits Times, p. 43.

HFMD takes life of another baby boy. (2001, March 3). The Straits Times, p. 3.

HFMD - task force not afraid to take action. (2001, February 2). The Straits Times, p. 21.

S'pore to reopen preschools as epidemic fears ease. (2000, October 12). The Straits Times.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2000). Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease. Retrieved November 6, 2003, from 

Ministry of Environment. (n.d.).  [FAQ on Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease]. Retrieved 2001, from www.env.gov.sg/info/press/qed/faq_hfmd.html

Ministry of Health. (2004). FAQs on Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. Retrieved Februrary 28, 2005, from moh.gov.sg/corp/about/faqs/illness/details.do?cid=cat_faqs_illness_hfm&id=8257620

Ministry of Health. (2004). Ministry of Health: Welcome. Retrieved January 5, 2004, from moh.gov.sg/corp/index.do

The information in this article is valid as at 2001 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Coxsackievirus infections--Singapore
Enterovirus diseases--Singapore
Politics and Government>>Health
Public health
Health and medicine>>Diseases>>Other diseases

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