Contagious virus hits two PMB schools

2015-03-18 00:00

A PIETERMARITZBURG school sent pupils home after they presented symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease.

Acting principal of Gert Maritz Primary School, Christa van der Walt, said last week a mother sent a letter to the school informing them that her son, a Grade 7 pupil, had been diagnosed with hand, foot and mouth disease. The disease is caused by the coxsackie virus.

“This week we had another pupil come to school and a teacher found something that looked like the disease. We haven’t heard from her parents to confirm that it was indeed the disease. We sent her home because it definitely looked like it,” she said.

Van der Walt also informed the Department of Health about the incidences and she was told that it was an isolated case.

“My concern is that the Grade 6 pupil has been in contact with other children at the weekend. We sent all our parents a red alert message to inform them that some of the children had the disease,” she said.

Principal of Siembamba Pre-primary School, Driekie Ehlere, said last month two children presented symptoms of the disease and were sent home. “We asked the parents to take them to the doctor and to keep them at home for two weeks,” said Ehlere.

Communications manager of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), Nombuso Shabalala, said the disease was a contagious viral infection that causes fever, an eruption of sores in the mouth and a non-itchy rash on the hands and feet.

“While it commonly affects ­children under the age of 10, it can also occur among adolescents and adults. It is spread from person to ­person by direct contact or from droplets that come from the mouth or nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes.” She said it can also be passed on through contaminated objects or faeces.

“An infected person is most contagious during the first week of illness,” she said.

“If there is an outbreak of several cases the Department of Health should be contacted,” said Shabalala. She said the disease clears up in about seven to 10 days.

“Affected pupils should be encouraged to rest and drink plenty of fluids. Good hygiene is critical to the control of the disease,” she said.

KZN Department of Health spokesperson Agiza Hlongwane said that there was no specific treatment for the virus, and treatment was ­focused more on the symptoms to provide relief.

• amanda.khoza@witness.co.za

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