When should PH declare HFMD outbreak?

Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is a common infection among children, causing sores, rash, and blisters on their hands, feet, or legs. The Department of Health (DOH) recently recorded an uptick in Metro Manila's HFMD cases, prompting Filipinos to ask: should the country declare an HFMD outbreak now?

Infectious disease expert Dr. Rontgene Solante, in a Laging Handa public briefing on Thursday, Dec. 8, said there are factors to consider when declaring an outbreak.

“ 155 cases, we cannot say that there is a need to declare an outbreak. One component to declare an outbreak is if the infection is really widespread not only in the National Capital Region (NCR), but in other neighboring regions ,” said Solante.

(Photo courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Another factor, according to the expert, is if the number of cases is high, or is already “more than 100 percent of the cases that are documented before."

“Third, if the hospitals are already being filled with HFMD cases. That is also one of the factors when we should declare an outbreak,” Solante furthered.

DOH, on Tuesday, Dec. 6, disclosed that 155 cases of HFMD were recorded in Metro Manila from October until December 2022. Majority of these cases were detected from children less than 11 years of age.

How does it spread?

There are various ways on how HFMD spreads, but according to Solante, the following are the most common ways: contact with contaminated surfaces, respiratory secretions or droplets containing virus particles, and “direct contact” with an infected individual’s rashes or skin lesions.

“Kadalasan dito ay nag-uumpisa sa lagnat paghina ng katawan. Walang immunity ang infection, especially with HFMD. After exposure pwede pa rin siya ma-expose at mareinfect. Kaya napaka importante ng prevention (It often begins with fever and weakening of the body. There is no immunity to infection, especially with HFMD. After an exposure, one can still be exposed and get reinfected. That is why prevention is so important),” the expert said.

According to Solante, preventive methods as simple as washing hands, observance of cleanliness, and teaching children to avoid touching their mouths and eyes could help prevent an HFMD infection.