There’s a new strangely-named and contagious illness affecting children in the state of Virginia.

Virginia health officials say there has been an increase in cases of hand-foot-and-mouth disease — a mild and contagious viral infection that’s characterized by a rash on the hands and feet and sores in the mouth — within the past few weeks. According to a letter sent out by the Central Shenandoah Health District, there’s been more than 370 cases statewide.

"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,” Shenandoah Health Director Laura Kornegay said in a statement. “Or, they had symptoms consistent with that of the diagnosis."

Although the illness tends to target children up to age five, officials warn anyone is susceptible to the virus.

“My daughter [who has Type 1 diabetes] has a low immune system, and when she was 18 years old she was diagnosed with hand-foot-and-mouth disease,” North Carolina resident Sheila Shiflett told Our Community Now Virginia. “Although this was a few years ago, I remember she had huge blisters on her scalp and sores on her hands and in her mouth.”

Shiflett said her daughter was working at a preschool in Norfolk, Virginia, at the time. She said she believes her daughter may have caught the illness from one of the younger students.

Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease Symptoms

According to the Mayo Clinic, Hand-foot-and-mouth disease may cause the following signs and symptoms:

• Sore throat
• Fever
• A red rash on the palms, soles, and in some cases, the buttocks
• Loss of appetite
• Painful, red, blister-like lesions on the gums, tongue, and inside of the cheeks
• Irritability in infants and toddlers
• An overall feeling of being unwell (malaise)

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease usually starts out as a low-grade fever. Two days in, painful red spots will begin developing on the infected person’s throat, tongue, or gums. Then, flat red spots will appear on their hands and soles of the feet. In rare cases, hand-foot-and-mouth disease can cause other complications, including viral meningitis and encephalitis.

Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease Prevention

There are a few things you can do to prevent or help reduce the risk of infection with hand-foot-and-mouth disease, including the following actions:

• Disinfecting communal areas
• Washing your hands thoroughly
• Teaching good hygiene
• Isolating contagious people

Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease Treatment

Unfortunately, there isn’t a treatment for the virus, and according to the Virginia Department of Health, it can remain in the body for weeks, even after the symptoms have gone away.

"So that's a big problem because when a child looks like they are better, and they're sent back to daycare or sent to parties, they can still be potentially transmitting the virus, especially in their stools,” Chesapeake pediatrician Dr. Robert Fink told WAVY-TV 10.

So, what’s a worried parent to do? According to the Mayo Clinic, sucking on ice (or eating ice cream!) can alleviate the soreness in the infected person’s mouth. At least there's that!

Have you heard of this strange-sounding disease before? Let us know in the comment section below!

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