Hand, foot and mouth disease

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What is hand, foot and mouth disease?

Hand, foot and mouth disease is a common viral illness that mainly affects infants and children but can sometimes occur in adults. It is caused by a group of viruses called enteroviruses, including certain coxsackie viruses (most commonly A16) and enterovirus 71.

There is no vaccine or medication that protects against hand, foot and mouth disease.

What is my risk?   

How is it transmitted?          

What are the symptoms?

Can hand, foot and mouth disease be treated?

There is no specific treatment for hand, foot and mouth disease. Symptoms can be treated with medications that provide relief for the pain of mouth sores, fever and aches.  It is important to stay well hydrated.

Where is hand, foot and mouth disease a concern?


Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.

  1. Protect yourself and others from the spread of germs:
    1. Wash your hands frequently
      • Wash your hands with soap under warm running water for at least 20 seconds, as often as possible, especially before eating or preparing food and after using the bathroom or changing diapers.
      • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer can also be used if soap and water are not readily available. It’s a good idea to keep some with you in your pocket or purse when you travel.
    2. Practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette
      • Cover your mouth and nose with your arm to reduce the spread of germs. If you use a tissue, dispose of it as soon as possible and wash your hands afterwards.
    3. Keep shared items and surface areas clean
      • Clean doorknobs, toys, and other surfaces that many people, especially children, touch on a regular basis.
    4. Try to avoid close contact with people that are sick.
      • Avoid close contact, such as kissing or hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick.
  2. Monitor your health
    • If you or your child develops symptoms similar to hand, foot and mouth disease while travelling or after you return to Canada, you should see a health care provider. Seek medical attention immediately if your child is showing signs of dehydration, stiff neck, back pain, convulsions or persistent headache.
    • Tell your health care provider that you have been travelling or living in an area where there is an outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease.
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