20 Dec 2010

WHO awaits test results of Fiji mystery children's disease

4:50 pm on 20 December 2010

A World Health Organisation representative in Fiji says he suspects a mystery illness affecting some children in Fiji is a type of virus that causes hand foot and mouth disease.

The unknown viral infection begins with a fever and eventually leads to rashes and blisters on the victim's hands and feet and around the mouth, and in severe cases children also suffer seizures.

The WHO's Dr Jacob Kool is responsible for communicable disease surveillance and response, and says since October, about 30 cases of the infection are being reported to hospitals every week.

He says although he suspects hand foot and mouth disease he hopes it isn't the more serious form of the disease that's common in Asia.

"So hand foot and mouth disease can be caused by several different viruses. The most common one is the coxsackie virus, and that usually causes a very mild disease only a fever for a day and some rash and that's it. There's another one, enterovirus 71 it's called, which usually also causes mild disease but in some cases it can cause severe disease and even death."

Dr Jacob Kool says strict hygiene practices, such as washing hands regularly and not sharing utensils or drinks, are very important as hand foot and mouth disease is contagious.

He says laboratory tests to actually confirm what the illness is are due back this week.