It only sounds like hoof-and-mouth disease. A new virus called coxsackie A6 is cropping up in kids and teens across the U.S. -- with a high fever, flu-like lethargy and bright-red blisters on hands, feet, in the mouth and everywhere else.
Related to the cosackie virus that toddlers get, coxsackie A6 was first reported in the United States last November. By March it was causing trouble in Alabama, Connecticut, California, and Nevada according to the CDC. This month, Johns Hopkins Children's Center pediatricians reported seeing nearly 50 cases -- and said they expect plenty more were turning up in doctor’s offices and emergency rooms. It’s been showing up in Pennsylvania this summer, too.
"We've talked with many of our pediatric dermatology colleagues around the country and the number of cases and the severity of the rash is clearly new and different from the typical hand, foot and mouth disease we are used to seeing," Johns Hopkins doctor Kate Puttgen, M.D., said earlier this week in a news release.
Sounds scary, but Puttgen adds that "The good news is that it looks bad but hasn't actually caused severe symptoms for our patients."
Five things you should know about coxsackie A6:
#1: It’s not herpes. The new virus can cause a rash that mimics herpes simplex blisters. “Parents may panic if they don't know what it is," the Johns Hopkins experts say. "But unlike herpes simplex, this rash evolves very fast. It's bad for a few days and then gets better very quickly without any treatment at all."
#2: Hand-washing helps. Washing hands often with soap and water can help protect against transmission of the virus. Avoid close contact with anyone who may have it -- no kissing, hugging or sharing tableware.
#3. It’s only an emergency when… "If the child has low-grade fever, but is otherwise well, waiting and watching is appropriate," Cohen says. "If the child is having problems with feeding or drinking or acting ill, it's time to call the doctor." Kids with immune deficiencies, cancer or other serious illness should be followed closely by their pediatrician to avoid or promptly treat any complications.
#4. It starts with these symptoms. The CDC says "Hand, foot, and mouth disease usually starts with a fever, poor appetite, a vague feeling of being unwell (malaise), and sore throat. One or 2 days after fever starts, painful sores usually develop in the mouth. “The sores are often in the back of the mouth. A skin rash develops over 1 to 2 days. The rash has flat or raised red spots, sometimes with blisters. The rash is usually on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet; it may also appear on the knees, elbows, buttocks or genital area."
#5: Water matters. The painful mouth sores make drinking water difficult, which raises risk for dehydration especially in little kids. If your child has signs of this virus, ask your doctor which pain relievers will help and whether a numbing spray or mouthwash will help stop mouth pain so that your child can sip water.