Plans to declare a hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) outbreak in Negros Occidental have been put on hold by Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson, citing the lack of recommendation from the Provincial Health Office (PHO) to declare such an outbreak.
The governor acknowledged the seriousness of the situation with the 6,300 percent increase in cases in the last 35 days since the start of the year, however he emphasized that any decision to declare an outbreak must be based on the PHO’s assessment and recommendations, which currently do not support the need for such a declaration.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Ernell Tumimbang said that the 350 recorded cases of HFMD in the province from January 1 to February 4 are only suspected cases based on their symptoms. In order to officially declare an outbreak, Tumimbang stated that confirmation from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) is necessary.
As of this writing, health officials are still investigating the source of the HFMD outbreak, however, records from the PHO indicated that a significant number of cases were reported in Kabankalan City.
HFMD is a viral illness that typically affects young children but can also occur in adults. It is spread through close contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids, such as saliva, mucus, or feces. Symptoms of HFMD can include fever, sore throat, mouth sores, and a rash on the hands, feet, and mouth.
Last week, the PHO has urged the Department of Education to take extra precautions to prevent the spread of the disease. This includes practicing good hand hygiene, covering coughs and sneezes, and avoiding close contact with those who are sick.
Children with symptoms of HFMD should be kept home from school or daycare until they are fully recovered to prevent further spread of the illness.