WASHOE COUNTY, Nev. — A rare strain of hand, foot, and mouth disease has made its way to the Truckee Meadows, the Washoe County health department announced this week.
According to local public health officials, 30 cases of HFMD, identified as Coxsackievirus A6, have been identified; cases have appeared in only three other places in the United States — Alabama (38), California (seven) and Connecticut (one).
Although it is not unusual to see cases of HFMD, particularly in children under 5 years old, the unique symptoms presented by the A6 strain had Washoe County Health District epidemiologists suspecting a rare occurrence was under way. Six cases were also seen in adults over 20 years old. With assistance from the California Department of Public Health and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, public health officials were able to confirm the diagnosis.
According to the CDC, HFMD is a common viral illness with mild symptoms — usually low fever, a rash or sores on the palms of the hand and soles of the feet, and sores or blisters inside the mouth. But the Coxsackievirus A6 was causing heavier rashes not only in those areas, but also on knees, elbows, arms, legs, bottoms, and genital areas. Some cases may present nail shedding weeks after their initial symptom onset.
“The unusual presentations we were seeing led us to believe that this was not your typical outbreak of hand, foot, and mouth disease,” said Washoe County District Health Officer, Dr. Joseph Iser. “We began an outbreak investigation immediately. We obtained samples from cases, and sent those samples off to laboratories to confirm our initial suspicions. Staff did an excellent job researching the symptoms of this virus and getting information to the lab.”
Iser and his staff say the public should not be overly concerned about the HFMD cases appearing in our area at this time. While there is no vaccine to protect against it, by learning about the virus and following simple recommendations, the risk of contracting HFMD is reduced significantly.