Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is a common infection caused by a group of viruses. HFMD should not be confused with foot-and-mouth disease (also known as hoof-and-mouth disease), which mostly affects livestock.
It typically begins with a fever and feeling generally unwell. This is followed a day or two later by flat discolored spots or bumps that may blister, on the hands, feet and mouth and occasionally buttocks and groin.
The viruses that cause HFMD are spread through close personal contact, through the air from coughing and the feces of an infected person. Contaminated objects can also spread the disease. Coxsackievirus A16 is the most common cause, and enterovirus 71 is the second-most common cause. Other strains of coxsackievirus and enterovirus can also be responsible. Some people may carry and pass on the virus despite having no symptoms of disease.
HFMD occurs in all areas of the world. It often occurs in small outbreaks in nursery schools or kindergartens. Large outbreaks have been occurring in Asia since 1997. It usually occurs during the spring, summer and fall months. Typically it occurs in children less than five years old but can occasionally occur in adults.