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Indonesian health authorities urge vigilance against viral hand foot mouth disease ahead of Idul Fitri

Jakarta Post - April 4, 2024

Nina A. Loasana, Jakarta – The Health Ministry is urging the public to remain vigilant against hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) as authorities have reported rising cases of the viral infection ahead of the Idul Fitri holiday season.

The ministry reported that health officials found nearly 5,500 cases of HFMD across the country between January and March 16.

It also noted a rise in cases in 20 of 38 provinces compared to the same period last year, said ministry spokesperson Siti Nadia Tarmizi. But she stressed that the increase was insignificant.

"This disease is very contagious but not dangerous. We will continue to educate the public to remain vigilant and implement good hygiene practices," Siti told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

Locally known as "Singapore flu", HFMD is an infectious disease commonly found in infants and children under 10 years old, and is caused by enteroviruses. Adults can also get infected the but show no symptoms and act as carriers of the disease.

Symptoms of the disease include fever, sore throat, mouth ulcers and rash and blisters on the hands and feet. But symptoms often recede between seven and 10 days after infection without treatment.

The disease can spread through direct contact with the mucus, saliva, feces and fluids from blisters of an infected person. A patient is most contagious during the first week of the illness, but the virus may remain in the body for weeks, making them a carrier for the disease.

Seasonal spike

In Indonesia, HFMD often spreads as the country transitions from the dry season to the rainy season and vice versa, usually in March to April and October to November.

Studies have shown that temperature shifts during the seasonal change affect the human immune system, making us more susceptible to viruses and infections.

The recent rise in HFMD cases in Indonesia was linked to the spike of cases in neighboring Singapore, Health Ministry health quarantine and surveillance director Achmat Farchanny Tri Adriyatno said.

Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin advised the public to carry out efforts to maintain a healthy immune system to prevent contracting the disease, such as by getting enough sleep and keeping a well-balanced diet.

The ministry also warned parents to ensure their children drink enough water. Although HFMD symptoms are usually mild, mouth ulcers may discourage children from drinking water, the ministry warned. Such a condition may lead to dehydration which would eventually worsen the infection.

Idul Fitri risk

Doctors have raised concerns over the increased risk of HFMD transmissions in the coming weeks, as millions of people are expected to travel to their hometowns for the Idul Fitri holiday, which is expected to fall on April 10.

The Transportation Ministry estimated that more than 193 million people, or roughly 71 percent of the country's population, will participate in the annual homecoming trip, making this year's Idul Fitri holiday season the largest mudik (exodus) season the country has observed.

pidemiologist Dicky Budiman of the Griffith University in Australia advised the public to implement good personal hygiene practices to prevent HFMD infections during the mudik season.

"Health protocols implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as frequent hand washing and avoiding crowded places, are also effective to curb HFMD," he said.

Since HFMD commonly affects children, Dicky also suggested that schools make sure that infected students stay home and prevent students from sharing eating utensils during lunch breaks.

Source: https://asianews.network/indonesian-health-authorities-urge-vigilance-against-viral-hand-foot-mouth-disease-ahead-of-idul-fitri