Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease cases in the British Virgin Islands have made a significant leap with 44 reported across 10 preschools and daycare centres across the territory.

This was confirmed by the National Epidemiologist Ms. Harmonie Brewley-Massiah in a media release on Thursday.

She said that more cases are expected as the Ministry of Health continues to investigate the matter, adding that the disease is generally mild but extremely contagious among children.

“Proper hand washing, disinfection and sanitisation is needed to minimise the risk of contracting or spreading Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease,” she said.

“We are also asking that all health-care providers and educational institutions increase their vigilance and to immediately report any suspected cases of the disease to the Ministry of Health at telephone numbers 468-2281 or 468-2285,” the national epidemiologist added.

The Ministry of Health warned that “Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing, and contact with infected feces through the changing of diapers or touching surfaces or objects which have been contaminated with the virus.”

The ministry said that symptoms “usually begin with a fever, itching, sore throat, reduced appetite and a general feeling of being unwell. Within two days of the onset of symptoms, a rash consisting of small red spots or blisters may appear on the soles of the feet, palms of the hands or inside the mouth.”

The health ministry also urged residents to avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands and disinfect surfaces and objects, such as toys and doorknobs.

“Persons should also avoid close contact such as hugging, kissing and sharing eating utensils with persons who are infected with the disease,” the ministry stated.