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Perth hit by spate of hand, foot and mouth disease

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A top doctor has warned of an upsurge in hand, foot and mouth disease in Perth, with kids and adults suffering painful symptoms after contracting the highly contagious virus.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is a viral infection that causes a rash or blisters on the hands and feet, as well as in or around the mouth.

It mainly affects children under the age of 10, but can also affect adolescents and, in rare cases, adults.


A Perth dad named Mike found that out the hard way when he contracted the virus from his toddler.

Camera IconPerth dad Mike said he has experienced very bad back pain, neck pain and headaches. Credit: Supplied

He told The West Live that he, like many adults, didn’t think he was at risk of contracting the virus, especially when his son recovered fairly quickly with minimal symptoms.

However, as with chicken pox, getting HFMD as an adult can be a very different story.

“I started noticing very bad back pain, bad neck pain, bad headaches and there was a day when I slept for 20 out of 24 hours, but I didn’t put it down to anything other than a big session at the gym and being a bit rundown,” Mike said.

“And then there was an explosion of marks on my body on Sunday, it was literally an overnight bang.”

Mike said he now has painful blisters on his hands and feet, which he initially worried were the symptoms of meningococcal, prompting him to visit a GP.

“To even put shoes on now is incredibly painful,” he said.

Blisters in and around his mouth are also making it challenging to eat.

“I’m pretty much on a water diet, swallowing is pretty difficult, and it’s on the tongue, it’s on the lips, the corner of the mouth,” he said.

Mike was told by his GP that HFMD was rife in Perth right now, which was confirmed by Dr Simon Torvaldsen, chair of the AMA Council of General Practice in WA.

Dr Torvaldsen said there is no vaccination that can protect against the virus, which “goes around in waves” through the community.

“Currently, there’s been a bit of an upsurge once again,” Dr Torvaldsen told The West Live.

Mike said he has painful blisters on his hands and feet, which he initially worried were the symptoms of meningococcal.
Camera IconMike said he has painful blisters on his hands and feet, which he initially worried were the symptoms of meningococcal. Credit: Supplied

The doctor said the virus was spread through contact with the fluid from inside the blisters, with the droplets spread from sneezing and coughing or through contact with faecal matter of an infected person.

It typically is spread among children who play together in schools, daycare centres or at playgrounds.

And, though it was rare for adults to get it as bad as Mike, it was not impossible.

“Mostly we get it in childhood, but, every now and then, someone will make it through childhood without getting it, and if they’re unlucky enough to get it as an adult because they’re not immune, it’s quite an unpleasant illness,” Dr Torvaldsen said.

The doctor said HFMD was more unpleasant than dangerous, and that there was no treatment other than taking painkillers such as Panadol, and waiting for the virus to subside on its own.

“If in doubt, it’s important to go see your doctor,” Dr Torvaldsen said.

HFMD is not related to the foot and mouth disease that is found in animals.

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