Mac Slavo

A contagious virus which infects children is spreading through Virginia.  Childcare providers and schools are sounding the alarms after several hundred cases of “hand, foot, and mouth” disease have sickened young kids.

A letter sent out by the Central Shenandoah Health District on Wednesday warns that cases of hand, foot, and mouth disease have elevated in recent weeks, reported Wavy.   The viral illness most often infects children up to age 5, but officials warn anyone is susceptible to the virus.

“There were a total across the state of 376 emergency department and urgent care visits that a chief complaint or a diagnosis of hand, foot and mouth disease. Or, they had symptoms consistent with that of the diagnosis,” according to Laura Kornegay, the district’s health director. Dr. Kevin Connelly, a pediatrician with the Chippenham Hospital in Richmond told NBC affiliate WWBT the disease is highly contagious.

Symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease include fever, fatigue, a rash in the mouth, on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet, and sometimes painful sores. The fever can last for up to five days, but there are other reasons to be concerned.

“The problem with the disease is that with the blisters in your mouth it hurts to swallow,” Dr. Connelly said. “So children don’t want to eat … don’t want to drink. They have a risk of getting dehydrated.” He also said that runny noses are common in daycares and schools and often how the virus spreads. Saliva is all too common in places where a lot of children congregate.

There’s no treatment for the virus, and it can remain in the body for weeks after symptoms have gone away, according to the Virginia Department of Health.  According to The Mayo Clinic, symptoms of the infection can be relieved at home until the child is fully recovered.  Sucking on ice or eating ice cream can alleviate the soreness in the mouth, while over-the-counter pain relievers will work to reduce the fever and offer comfort.