My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: 313 Cases of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease in Jamaican Schools - Why the Coxsackie Virus thrives in a Drought

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Monday, October 5, 2015

313 Cases of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease in Jamaican Schools - Why the Coxsackie Virus thrives in a Drought

“I want to remind teachers, administrators, parents and guardians that they should also limit person-to-person contact among infants and young children such as hugging, kissing or sharing utensils, especially for affected children”

Minister of Health, Dr Fenton Ferguson on Thursday October 1st 2015 at a joint Press Conference with the Ministry of Education

Jamaica is now in the grips of yet another epidemic.

No, this isn't the dreaded Zika Virus, which the Minister of health Dr. Fenton Ferguson has assured us isn't in Jamaica as reported in the article “No Zika Virus in Jamaica”, published October 3, 2015 By Garfield Angus, The Jamaica Information Service.


Rather, this is an outbreak of the HFMD (Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease), which has now spreading across Jamaica like Wildfire among school children as reported in the article “Hand, Foot And Mouth Disease Reported In 10 Parishes”, Published Friday October 2, 2015 by Andre Poyser, The Jamaica Gleaner

The stats disclosed by the Minister of Health, Dr Fenton Ferguson on Thursday October 1st 2015 at a Joint Press Conference with the Ministry of Education reveals some very grim statistics:

1.      313 reported cases of HFMD islandwide
2.      98 schools reporting cases of HFMD islandwide
3.      11 schools have been closed due to the HFMD outbreak
4.      10 Parishes affected by HFMD
5.      4 Parishes not affected by HFMD

These four (4) parishes, interestingly are the ones least affected by the current drought gripping the island as I’d opined in my blog article entitled “Water Shortage at MICO - How I'm dealing with the Water Shortage in Kingston” as a lack of water for sanitation is being blamed for the rise of this disease:

1.      Trelawny
2.      Hanover
3.      Manchester
4.      Clarendon

The other affected parishes, which are experience the drought more severely, are the ones reporting the HFMD cases:

1.      St. Catherine: 153 cases from 38 schools
2.      Kingston and St Andrew: 67 cases from 20 schools
3.      St Thomas: 39 cases from 11 schools
4.      Portland and St Ann: 30 from 19 schools
5.      Westmoreland: 4
6.      St James: 2
7.      St Elizabeth: 6 cases from 2 schools

As an added precaution, the Minister of Health has advised that children infected with the disease not be allowed to attend school as reported in the article “Keep children with hand foot and mouth disease at home – Health Minister”, published Sunday, October 04, 2015, The Jamaica Observer.

The school administrators have been advised to not only report suspected cases to the Health Authorities, SERHA and NERHA but also:

  1. Limit hugging and kissing among children
  2. Washing hands regularly with soap and water
  3. Covering nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing
  4. Disinfecting surface that children regularly touch
  5. Sanitizing and disinfecting clothing that that they wear
  6. Keeping Infected Children separate from uninfected children

So what exactly is Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease?

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease - What it is and What causes the disease

Hand Foot and Mouth Disease is caused by the Coxsackie Virus, which is a Tetrahedron shaped virus as shown below.


It main affects young children, infants, and toddlers and occurs mostly in the Spring or Fall in nursery schools or kindergartens, basically when water levels are log in Jamaica and school starts as noted in the article “Outbreak Of Hand, Foot And Mouth Disease In Several Schools”, Published Monday September 28, 2015, The Jamaica Gleaner and “Hand foot and mouth disease”, published Sunday, October 04, 2015, The Jamaica Observer

Not sure where the Coxsackie Virus comes from originally, but most likely it lies dormant in soil, only coming alive when humans decided to drink water from unsanitary sources, such as rivers, streams or wells that ground water often exits into as noted in my blog article entitled “Water Wastage at MICO - How Waste Water Recycling and Rainwater Harvesting benefits Agriculture”.

This would naturally occur during times of drought as was the case in 2009 and then 2012 as pointed out in the article “Keep children with hand foot and mouth disease at home – Health Minister”, published Sunday, October 04, 2015, The Jamaica Observer.

Otherwise we Jamaicans get our water from NWC (National Water Commission) via the Network of pipes that criss-cross the island. Good to note that this HFMD seems to be spreading among mainly children from the Inner City community or living in Rural Urban setting where accessibility to clean water isn't consistent. 

A good example is St. Thomas, where Jamaica Labour Party Eastern St Thomas caretaker, Delano Seiveright has noted that his parish has been the worst hit as noted in the article “Seiveright says St Thomas worst hit by hand, foot and mouth disease”, published Friday, October 02, 2015, The Jamaica Observer.

Children of parents living in the Gated Communities as well as more Urbanized City Centers aka Upper St. Andrew and parishes that have access to clean water as listed above and have well ingrained sanitary practices are naturally unaffected by this outbreak. HFMD has some very interesting symptoms as well which explains the name “Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease”:

1.         Fever
2.         Blister-like rash on the palms of the hands
3.         Blister-like rash on the soles of the feet
4.         Blisters inside the mouth

It’s usually spread among infected children who rub their noses, mouths as well as the bottoms with their hands, coating it with traces of their oral secretions i.e. nasal discharge, saliva and stool. They then touch each other either by shaking hands, kissing or hugging, thereby spreading their oral secretions all over each other.

So no, just like the Chikungunya Virus is spread by the Aedes Aegypti Mosquito suggest that it is NOT airborn as described in my blog article entitled “31 infected during Jamaican Chikungunya Virus Epidemic - 113 Deaths in the Caribbean as Jamaica grapples with Chikungunya Virus Outbreak” so too is the Coxsackie Virus; not airborne!

Rather, like that epidemic in 2014, this disease is spread in a specific way; via physical contact with the body fluids of the infected individual, just like the common cold. 

Treatment of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease - Disinfecting surfaces, Vitamin C and avoid Dehydration

Also, like the Chikungunya Virus, there is no known cure only treatment of the symptoms, which mainly involve a fever and the resulting Dehydration, which can be relieved via drinking water as noted in my blog article entitled “How to find work in Jamaica at Call Centers - Drink Bottled Water as Dehydration and Salty Foods makes you lose concentration”.


Taking Vitamin C by drinking and eating more products that contain Vitamin C such as Fruit Juices, green leafy vegetable and supplements also helps to boost the child's immune system.

Vitamin C also boost the production of Interferon and thereby helps to reduce the symptoms over time as it does for Chikungunya Virus sufferers as I'd predicted in my blog article entitled “Vitamin C and the Chikungunya Virus –How to increase your Vitamin C Intake, Glutathione and Interferon by White Blood Cells”.


Prevention of the spread of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is also a good measure:

1.         Limit hugging and kissing among children
2.         Washing hands regularly with soap and water
3.         Covering nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing
4.         Disinfecting surface that children regularly touch
5.         Sanitizing and disinfecting clothing that that they wear
6.         Keeping Infected Children separate from uninfected children

So now you know what HFMD disease, symptoms and what causes it, how does this affect me?

Hand Foot and Mouth Disease and Miconians - Folks, this is why I do not hug or kiss people at MICO

At MICO University College, people often wonder why I do not talk to anyone or hug and kiss people when I greet them. That's became I’m a germophobe; I dislike physical contact to the point that I walk with a set of wipes in my bad to clean my hands after touching people or dirty objects.

At my apartment, I constantly wash myself and my flat mates often complain that I take very long baths. I'm also super fond of bleach as well as sweeping and cleaning my surroundings. My condition isn’t severe; I can have physical contact with people, just not in an intimate way. Intimacy for me requires that the female be scrubbed and have all of her body hair shaved.

So when this story of a Hand, Foot and Mouth disease originally broke from SERHA (South Eastern Regional Health Authority) on Monday September 28th 2015 as reported in the article “SERHA monitoring cases of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease”, published Monday, September 28, 2015, the Jamaica Observer, I was alarmed but grateful that this was a disease that mainly affects children.


Otherwise I’d come to MICO University College wearing a Hazmat Suit with a re-breather to avoid even breathing the air many of my fellow Miconians breathe. This as I’m still suffering from the symptoms of the Chikungunya Virus Infection from 2014 as I’d reported in my blog article entitled “Minister of Health comes clean on Chikungunya Virus Epidemic - 35 Official Cases as 60 percent possibly Infected and Medicines running low”.

This as albeit they are NOT children, some of them still do interact with children from the Mico Practising Primary & Junior High School! Which means that many of them, being adult’s, will not show symptoms but can potentially be Typhoid Mary's i.e. Carriers of the Coxsackie Virus without showing symptoms.

After all, with the current water shortage, I was more anticipating an outbreak of gastroenteritis, which has similar symptoms.

Even Jamaica Labour Party Eastern St Thomas caretaker, Delano Seiveright made the mistake of assuming that cases involving persons in his constituency reporting diarrhea and abdominal discomfort after drinking water from unclean sources were suffering from Gastroenteritis as noted in the article “SERHA: No Increase In Gastroenteritis Cases In St Thomas”, Published Tuesday September 1, 2015, The Jamaica Gleaner

So fellow Jamaicans, stock up on water and stay clean.

Otherwise we might really end up with Triple whammie of viruses; Gastroenteritis, Zika Virus, H1N1 and a resurgence of the Chikungunya Virus as predicted in my blog article entitled “Jamaican Chikungunya Outbreak possible – Why H1N1 Outbreak in Jamaica possible as 1,731 die in India from H1N1 Outbreak”.

At that point, given out ailing Health Care system as per the Health Audit as detailed in my blog article entitled “Audit of Public Health Care System revealed - How the Minister of Health plans to correct these problems”, we'll have very little defense if the conditions that make these disease spread were to suddenly materialize in Jamaica.  



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