You've Got What? Enterovirus 71
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Enterovirus 71 (EV71) is one of a large family of viruses which multiply in the human gastrointestinal tract (gut). EV71 infection can cause illness ranging from mild through to serious with life threatening complications. Reports of EV71 infection occur from time to time in Australia. Outbreaks have been reported in Asia over many years, and occasionally in Australia (for example in NSW in 2012 and 2013).
Spread is from person to person through contamination of hands or objects (for example, toys) with infected faeces. The virus is then taken in by the mouth. Spread also occurs by contact with the saliva, nasal mucus or sputum (phlegm) of an infected person. In people with hand, foot and mouth disease, direct contact with fluid from blisters on the infected person can also spread the virus.
EV71 is one of many possible viruses that cause hand, foot and mouth disease. Not all children with EV71 infections will have hand, foot and mouth disease. In South Australia most cases of hand, foot and mouth disease are caused by other viruses.
The symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease are:
EV71 infection usually causes only a mild illness in adults and children. However, children under 5 years old, especially those under 2 years, are at higher risk of developing a severe EV71 infection.
Serious infection may involve the brain (encephalitis) and the meninges (the lining of the brain and spinal cord, causing meningitis). Signs may include:
The infection can also involve the heart, causing fast or slow heart rate, high blood pressure, or breathing difficulties.
Most cases recover completely but some need a short stay in hospital, and a very small number may have long-term consequences.
Hand, foot and mouth disease is diagnosed by the signs and symptoms.
Laboratory testing of samples from the throat, faeces or CSF (cerebrospinal fluid: the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord) is needed to make a definite diagnosis of EV71 infection.
(time between becoming infected and developing symptoms)
3 to 5 days.
(time during which an infected person can infect others)
People with hand, foot and mouth disease are infectious as long as there is fluid in the blisters. The faeces can remain infectious for several weeks.
There is no specific treatment for EV71 infection. With severe infection, hospital admission is needed to monitor for any complications involving the brain and heart.