The outbreak of Enterovirus-71 (EV-71) virus in Cambodia, which, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), caused more than 50 children to suffer and die from, has alarmed neighboring Asian countries in recent months. In the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed in July that there are two mild cases of EV-71 infection in the country, both of them the hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) type. This month, a newspaper reports that three cases are being monitored in Zamboanga, involving, among them, a one-year old child.
Smart Parenting consulted Dr. Charisma Evangelista, a Philippine General Hospital-trained neurologist, to get the low-down on EV-71. Read on for a quick primer on the virus.
1. What is the EV-71 virus? According to Dr. Evangelista, the Enterovirus-71 virus is a “causative agent of hand, foot, and mouth disease” aside from the Coxsackie virus A. While it has recently made news in Cambodia, she notes that the EV-71 is not a new virus and that it was first isolated in 1965. DOH records reveal that the Philippines has had several EV-71 cases in the past, although only rarely.
2. How does one get infected? "It may be contracted via direct contact with the feces, saliva, and mucus of another individual who has the EV-71 infection," says Dr. Evangelista. This means a mom changing the diaper of an infected infant may actually spread the virus if she doesn’t wash her hands properly afterward.
3. Who can get infected? "Anyone is susceptible to the infection, but it is much more common in infants and children," says Dr. Evangelista. In the Philippines, the two recently recorded cases involve children: a one-year-old in Davao and a five-year-old in Benguet. Thankfully, both cases appear to have only a mild strain of the virus unlike the severe form, which led to deaths in Cambodia, DOH and WHO report.
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4. How do you know you've contracted the virus? What are the symptoms? Dr. Evangelista notes that a person infected with the virus may or may not experience symptoms. If they do record symptoms, they may be likened to those you can get from the common flu: - fever - headache - mild muscle aches or myalgia - possible vomiting
If the EV-71 infection manifests in HFMD, Dr. Evangelista says painful sores around the mouth and throat may appear one to two days after the fever. “A non-itchy rash may then appear on the palms of the hands, feet, and the area surrounding the mouth,” she adds.