Virus fear in crèche

2014-11-13 00:00

PARENTS at a crèche near Durban were panicked after four children were diagnosed with hand, foot and mouth disease this week.

Queensburgh crèche Parkside Educare sent home four toddlers after they presented symptoms of the disease, caused by the coxsackie virus.

A doctor yesterday confirmed the virus was a leading cause of aseptic meningitis where layers lining the brain are inflamed.

The Witness traced two more cases in Pietermaritzburg, and a five-year-old girl attending Junglecubs Preschool in Umhlanga who is recovering from the disease at home.

Early last week, first-time mom Robyn Kleinhans (26) noticed a rash on her one-year-old Kira’s legs.

By Wednesday, Kira’s condition had deteriorated; she was not eating properly and the rash around her knees had turned into blisters.

Kleinhans took Kira to the pharmacy on Thursday.

“They told me she got the rash from playing in the sand. I asked if it wasn’t foot and mouth, and the pharmacist said I was overreacting.”

On Friday, Kira’s condition worsened and Kleinhans took her to the doctor where foot and mouth disease was diagnosed.

“I was shocked. Doctors said it developed in the digestive tract and was common in children.” Parent Bronwyn Shadwell (29) said the family went to the beach on Sunday when she noticed a rash under her 21-month-old daughter’s feet.

“When I took her to the doctor, we were told she had the disease.”

Parkside Educare principal Chantal Whitfield said the disease spread quickly.

“We notified the parents immediately. We also disinfected the classrooms, and cleaned the toys and carpets as an additional measure. We are watching all the children closely.”

She said parents had no reason to panic as “the crèche was managing the situation”.

“We can’t close our doors. I know parents will panic because they are human, but we believe we have everything under control,” she said.

Malvern GP Christo Wagener had seen 30 children between nine months and four years old in the past two months.

“The disease is common in young children and highly contagious,” said Wagener.

The airborne virus normally started in the mouth and spread to the hands and feet.

“This is different to the ones affecting animals. It is also rare in adults, as we have a stronger immune systems,” he said.

• The World Health Organisation said the disease was not the same as that found in animals, which is caused by a different virus and affects cattle, sheep and pigs.

Be careful – hand, foot and mouth disease is doing the rounds, warned Durban paediatric specialist Dr. Stanely Thula.

The principal specialist in paediatric pulmonology at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital said,

“The coxsackie virus is definitely doing the rounds and it causes flu like symptoms as well as red pimples on the hands and sores around the mouth.”

Thula said sometimes the virus resolves on its own.

“It is not deadly but it depends on the immunity of the individual. It may give you aseptic meningitis,” said Thula.

Malvern family doctor Christo Wagener said the virus definitely is not related to the state of hygiene, but is contracted much like the flu virus.

Wagener said the disease is commonly found in children. It shows up as painful sores in the mouth, a rash and blisters on the hands, feet and sometimes on the buttocks.

“The problem is that children do not get isolated early enough, they stay in the confined space like a crèche for too long before they are diagnosed. We always urge parents to get early diagnosis and keep their children at home as soon as it is detected,” said Wagener.

He said it is very seldom for complications to arise and parents need not panic.

“You don’t have to send your children to a specialists. We don’t treat the disease, we treat the symptoms that the children present.”

He said it takes about five to seven days to recover provided that the children are not exposed to infected children.

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