Fri, 17 Nov 2000

Hand, foot and mouth disease is in town

JAKARTA (JP): The city health agency has recorded some 30 cases of infants suffering from the contagious hand, foot and mouth disease in the past two weeks and is alerting parents living in the capital.

Deputy head of the agency, Ruhul Aflah, told The Jakarta Post on Thursday that the disease, which has been dubbed in several countries as a lethal one, so far has been discovered mostly in the city's plush estates, such as the Pondok Indah area.

Last week, the management of Teddy Bear pre-school in Pondok Indah halted activities for two days for disinfecting after two of its students came down with the illness, locally called by its acronym MKT (mulut-kaki-tangan) disease.

According to Ruhul, also a doctor, his office has yet to receive details of all locations where the disease has been confirmed, but has alerted all hospitals and community health centers about the symptoms.

"The disease is caused by a virus and cannot be cured. But it is not a deadly virus as long as the infected children can be properly treated," Ruhul said.

It was reported early last month that four infants died of hand, foot and mouth disease in Singapore, and three children perished in Kuala Lumpur from the disease.

News agencies reported that more than 1,000 people, mostly children, in the two neighboring countries had fallen ill with the "lethal" disease.

The disease is usually found in cows and other farm animals. Adults also can be infected by the disease, but children under the age of five are especially susceptible.

Ruhul said that the symptoms of the disease are similar to influenza, namely fever, sore throat, runny nose. But, he added, initial symptoms of the disease are normally followed by mouth ulcers, rashes on hands, feet or buttocks, vomiting and diarrhea.

"The ailing child can be treated at home, meaning that the sick person does not have to stay in hospital as long as he or she has adequate time to rest, enough nutrition and vitamin C. The child should also see doctor for routine check-up," Ruhul said.

She added that all of the recorded 30 cases were found in middle and upper income neighborhoods and there has been no reports that the disease has infected children from poor families yet.

Interviewed separately, principal of Pondok Indah's Teddy Bear pre-school, Pipie Haury said the school opened again on Monday after the weekend clean-up.

"It's just a prevention effort for the sake of the children, following reports from the parents of two students who advised that their children have the symptoms," Pipie said.

The school has 160 students between 18 months and six years old. About 80 percent of them are Japanese, with the remaining few from other Asian countries, like Malaysia, Korea, India and Indonesia.

"The two children said to have been infected by the disease were a Japanese and an Indonesian. One of them came back to school today and we have been informed by the doctor that the child is free from the virus," Pipie said.


Director for Medical Services at Pondok Indah Hospital, doctor Mus Aida, confirmed a significant increase in the number of child patients with symptoms of the disease in the past month.

Most of the patients have been allowed to leave the hospital for treatment in their homes, Aida told the Post at her office.

"The incubation period of the disease is from three to seven days and I suggest every child having symptoms of the disease stay at home to prevent spreading," Aida said.

She also said people should not panic because the disease is not a deadly one.

Meanwhile, a senior doctor at state-owned Cipto Mangunkusumo General Hospital said that the hospital, the largest in Jakarta, had yet to receive any children suffering from the infectious disease.

"No children have been admitted suffering the disease," Prof. Sri Rezeki S. Hadinegoro, an expert at the hospital's children's ward said. (dja/asa)