(THE NEW PAPER) - A 17-month-old boy from Penang has become Malaysia's first fatality due to hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD).
The boy died on June 6 and laboratory tests done on tissue samples from the boy confirmed that his death was because of the disease.
This comes after five schools in Malaysia were ordered to close for 10 days last Wednesday (July 25), following an increase in the number of HFMD cases nationwide.
Since January, 39,174 cases of HFMD have been recorded throughout the country.
Here are six things you need to know about the disease.
1. WHO DOES IT AFFECT?
HFMD is most common among babies and children under the age of five. However, it is possible for older children and adults to contract HFMD as well. The illness tends to be more severe in adults.
People who have had HFMD develop an immunity to the particular strain of HFMD that infected them. However, they can still contract other strains of the disease.
2. HOW IS IT TRANSMITTED?
HFMD is transmitted through contact with an infected person's nose and throat secretions (such as phlegm and mucus), blister fluid or faeces.
3. WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Symptoms include fever, sore throat, fatigue and a decreased appetite. Ulcers and blisters will develop in the mouth and on the hands and feet a few days after infection.
4. WHAT ARE THE DANGERS?
HFMD can damage the brain, lungs or heart, though such complications are rare. In most cases, the greatest danger is dehydration, as ulcers make it painful to drink.
5. HOW IS IT TREATED?
There is no specific cure for HFMD and the body is equipped to fight the infection on its own. Those who are infected can take medicine for fever or pain and must keep themselves rested and hydrated.
6. HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF
Avoid close physical contact, such as kissing and hugging, with those infected with HFMD.
Do not share food or cutlery with others if you suspect one of you is infected.
Keep your children at home if they are sick. The current outbreak is due in part to parents who send sick children to childcare centres, putting other children in danger.
Wash your hands often. Use antibacterial soap, such as Betadine Skin Cleanser, which has been proven to kill 99.99 per cent of the leading strains of HFMD.
Eat fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains to improve your immunity.