hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD), infectious viral disease that most commonly occurs in children under five years of age. Symptoms include fever, poor appetite, and a sore throat, followed by painful sores in the mouth and a skin rash on the palms of the hand, soles of the feet, and sometimes the elbows, knees, or buttocks. The rash may develop into blisters. Dehydration may occur, especially in the very young, because drinking can be painful; in rare cases, viral meningitis or encephalitis may result. There is no treatment for the disease except to alleviate the symptoms. Typically caused by a coxsackievirus or enterovirus, HFMD is normally transmitted through contact with a patient's saliva, mucus, or feces or surfaces contaminated by these. The disease usually develops within a week of exposure to the virus, and lasts for a week to ten days. HFMD is not related to foot-and-mouth disease, which infects cloven-hoofed animals.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.