Your child has contracted the Coxsackievirus – the virus sounds lethal and its strangely tropical- sounding name sends a lot of concerned parents into a state of panic. The reality of the situation is that the Coxsackie A viruses are quite common in infants and in young children and are the least serious of the Coxsackieviruses. For the most part the Coxsackievirus infections are not severe, and the virus presents itself through a variety of mild symptoms, which may include, a raised fever, slight rash, a sore throat, joint pain and a headache. Coxsackieviruses are part of a group of viruses known as enterovirus. Coxsackievirus infections are common in young children as well as in babies during the autumn and summer months.
However, even though this peculiar-sounding virus is often seen as being relatively harmless, at times the Coxsackievirus can cause more serious infections, and at this time the child will need to be hospitalised to receive the proper treatment. These serious conditions caused by the bug are viral meningitis, encephalitis (infection of the brain) and myocarditis (an infection of the muscles of the heart). Newborn babies are also at risk of being infected by their mothers during or after the birth and the newborns are at a greater risk of developing the more serious infections which stem from the Coxsackievirus, including, hepatitis and meningo-encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain). If a newborn is infected at birth or if the infection occurs shortly after birth, the symptoms typically take about two weeks to develop.
The more serious of the Coxsackieviruses is the Coxsackie B virus and this strain is of grave concern to doctors and may lead to serious health problems.
As with most bugs, the Coxsackievirus is highly infectious, and the virus is passed from person to person. Unwashed hands, contaminated surfaces and human faeces transmit the virus. Tiny airborne droplets which contain the virus can spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Those who are at a greater risk of contracting the Coxsackievirus infection are infants and children who are aged below 5. Schools, crÃ¨ches and nursery schools are breeding grounds for viruses like the Coxsackievirus.
How to prevent the Coxsackievirus from spreading
There is no vaccine to prevent the Coxsackievirus infection; however there are many methods that can combat the spread. Good hygiene is one of the best ways to prevent the spread and children need to be regularly and vigilantly reminded to wash their hands thoroughly after using the toilet and before eating. In crÃ¨ches, a good way to prevent bugs from spreading is to wipe surfaces and toys with a powerful disinfectant that can eliminate germs (as viruses are able to remain on objects for days)!
If your child has been diagnosed with the Coxsackievirus, it is important to keep the child at home and out of school. In this way the virus is contained and will not be spread to others. The recovery time for a child varies and in some cases, a child may need only 24 hours to recover, while in other cases, the fever and aches may last up to four days.
Treating the Coxsackievirus
Since it is a virus, antibiotics will have no effect on the bugs and a doctor will generally prescribe medications to relieve the symptoms (the headache, fever, etc). In less serious cases, most kids need no treatment and within a few days, the symptoms have completely vanished. It is important to keep children hydrated if they have a high temperature and to encourage them to rest.
The bug first presents as a mild fever, a slight loss of appetite, and a sore throat. A few days after the fever starts, sores may be seen developing in the mouth. Initially the sores are small red spots which then blister to look more like mouth ulcers. These sores are commonly found under the tongue, on the gums, and in the inside of the cheeks. The skin rash begins as flat or slightly raised red spots, and some of the sores may also blister. Unlike chickenpox, the skin rash is not itchy, and it is localised on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. In some cases, the rash can be found on the child’s buttocks. A child may either develop the skin rash or the mouth ulcers (seldom will both mouth and skin rashes occur).
Calling the doctor
If a child develops any of the following symptoms, parents are urged to immediately contact their doctor:
- A fever which is higher than 38 ° Celsius for infants who are 6 months and younger and a fever of 38.8 ° Celsius for older children.
- Loss of appetite (most children will not want to eat while ill, however if the problem persists, it is important to notify the doctor)
- An infant who has trouble feeding
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
- Breathing difficulties
- Fits or convulsions
- Complains of chest or abdomen pains
- A severe sore throat
- The child complains of a relentless headache, and is also vomiting, experiencing confusion, and suffers from convulsions
- A stiff neck
- Red, puffy, and watery eyes
- Pain in either one or both of the testicles
Where did the virus get its name from?
The Coxsackievirus sounds like a deadly and lethal tropical virus, but this virus is actually named after a town in New York – Coxsackie. The virus was first discovered in the town of Coxsackie – hence the name Coxsackievirus.
Besides being known as the Coxsackievirus, the bug is also referred to or known as -Hand, Foot, and Mouth since the rash develops on the hands and feet and because HFM is caused by the Coxsackievirus. Hand, Foot and Mouth is different from the foot-and-mouth disease of cattle, sheep, and pigs. The names may sound very similar, but the two diseases are unrelated and are caused by different types of viruses. Although the word Coxsackievirus sounds strange and menacing – it’s probably better than Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease!