The Health Ministry is warning of the spread of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HMFD) in Trinidad and Tobago.

In a media release issued Saturday, the Ministry said cases of the virus, which is commonly caught by children under the age of five, were identified among pediatric specialists within recent weeks.

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD), is a viral illness that usually affects children under the age of five, is characterised by fever, painful sores in the mouth, and a rash with blisters on hands, feet, and also buttocks.

The virus is spread through direct contact from nose and throat discharges, saliva, fluid from blisters, or the stool of infected persons.

The usual period from infection to onset of symptoms is usually three to seven days or longer.

Fever, which lasts from 24 to 48 hours, is often the first symptom of HFMD.

Chief Medical Officer at the Ministry of health, Dr. Roshan Parasram said citizens do not have to worry about there being an epidemic.

He maintained that the Ministry’s purpose in providing the release was to apprise the public of the situation and not to encourage panic among citizens.

There is no specific treatment for HFMD; citizens are advised to provide pain relief through over-the-counter medications (however aspirin should not be given to children).

The use of mouthwashes or sprays can also be used to lessen mouth pain.

Children who show symptoms of the virus are to be kept away from kindergarten, nursery, school or other gatherings until they are well.

Parents are advised to wash hands frequently and correctly especially after changing diapers and after using the bathroom.

Citizens are advised to keep all surfaces clean, especially toys, with soap and water and a solution of water and bleach (one tablespoon of bleach to four cups of water) to prevent the spread of the virus.

The public is also advised to avoid close contact such as kissing, hugging, sharing of eating utensil and cups etc with persons affected with HMFD.

Other preventative measures include covering the mouth when sneezing or coughing, properly disposing of used tissues and napkins, and ensuring the living space is clean.