Two more schools close due to HMFD

PHOTO: Two more schools close due to HMFD

Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) has hit another high causing two more schools to close.

The Japanese Kindergarten in West Coast and the Metropolitan YMCA Child Care & Development Centre have been closed since Mar 14, 2012, and will remain closed till Mar 23, 2012.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) says childcare centres and kindergartens with more than 16 HFMD cases or an attack rate greater than 23 per cent, and a transmission period of more than 24 days will be mandatorily closed for 10 days.

Currently, there are four schools closed, and five childcare centres and two kindergartens on MOH's watchlist.

Schools with more than 10 HFMD cases or an attack rate greater than 13 per cent, and a transmission period of more than 16 days are on MOH's watchlist.

Two schools - Pat's Schoolhouse in Meyer Road and Little Footies in Kensington Park - will reopen on Mar 18, 2012, after the school holidays are over.

The disease has gone over the epidemic level for the fourth week in a row with 1,142 cases last week, up from 1,119 cases the week before.

Above the 780-a-week mark is considered the onset of an epidemic.

Altogether, MOH figures show that 6,710 people have fallen sick since the start of this year, about three times more compared to the 2,169 cases in the same period last year.

HMFD is a viral infection that affects mostly children. Its symptoms include fever, sore throat, mouth ulcers, and rash or blisters on the palms and soles.

There is no specific treatment besides relief of symptoms and no vaccine.

The Straits Times reported that the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) said it has been stepping up health checks since 2010.

A spokesman told The Straits Times that advisories on hygiene and how to spot the virus have been sent to schools and parents.

However, some parents have raised concerns to The Straits Times that authorities should consider closing down schools earlier and not wait for 16 children to fall ill before doing so.

Usually, the effects of the virus are mild although a more serious strain, EV71, has caused deaths in Singapore.

MOH said none of the cases involves this strain, which can affect the nervous system and cause swelling in the brain.

The Straits Times reported that an outbreak of the EV71 strain killed more than 70 children in Asia, including seven in Singapore, ten years ago. In 2008, a three-year-old boy was infected by the strain and died in Singapore.