Health officials inspecting schools after outbreak

KINGSTON, Jamaica: Inspections of schools across the nation have begun following an outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease (HMFD) that has already forced the closure of one school.

The Ministry of Health’s public health inspectors will continue their investigations over the coming weeks.

“For the next three weeks, our public health inspectors will be visiting schools across the island to ensure that they meet the required health and sanitation standards,” said Minister of Health Rudyard Spencer, following a meeting with officials from his ministry, the health department and the education ministry.

Spencer said the operation will take into consideration kindergartens, primary and preparatory schools.

Following the discovery of six students with the disease, the Stella Maris Preparatory School in Kingston was closed last week for cleaning and sanitization.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sheila Campbell-Forrester said schools should ensure that children observe general hygiene practices, to reduce the incidence of spread.

“We have observed an increase in the rate of viral infections recently. These can be reduced, if we observe good hygiene practices,” Dr. Campbell-Forrester said. We continue to urge schools and parents to monitor children and ensure that they wash their hands frequently and properly with soap and water.”

HFMD is a viral illness common in infants and children. It causes fever and blister-like eruptions in the mouth, usually on the tongue, gum and inside the cheek and/or a rash on the skin.

Other symptoms include malaise, poor appetite and sore throat. Infection is easily spread from person to person, as a result of direct contact with infectious virus found in the nose and throat secretions, saliva, blister fluid, and stool of infected persons.

Parents have been urged to keep children at home, for at least seven days, if they are experiencing any of these symptoms or if they have flu-like symptoms. Schools have also been advised to contact their parish health department if a child is found to have any of the symptoms.

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