Ahmedabad schools are in a fix as parents have demanded resuming online classes to avoid spread of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD), the incidence of which has spiked in the past two weeks, especially among students of pre-primary and early classes.
“We are expecting the infection cycle to break during the weekend followed by a few holidays in the coming week. However, we are waiting until Monday to decide whether to start the online classes or not,” Manan Choksi, executive director of Udgam Group of Schools, told The Indian Express.
HFMD is a self-limiting viral infection and usually resolves within two weeks. Fever and malaise, along with rashes, are the commonly reported symptoms of the disease.
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Following the spike in cases, especially in the past seven to 10 days, parents have been advised not to send their children to school even if they are slightly unwell or show the slightest of symptoms. Udgam Group of Schools—the chain of pre-schools with nearly 1,500 pre-primary children—have been sending home those children with symptoms.
Ahmedabad-based pediatrician Dr Mona Desai says there is a rise in HFMD cases in the city. “We see a rise in infection—viral and fungal—in children following the monsoons. Children play in the rain and the lack of proper physical hygiene often causes these infections. In case of HFMD, blisters or rashes can appear on the hand, feet and also elbows.” However, Dr. Desai adds that anecdotally, HFMD cases reported so far this monsoon by private clinics are fewer compared to that seen last year.
Choksi, who is also the president of Association for Promotion of Prominent Schools, said cases were being reported at other schools, too. “We have not seen such a spate of this disease in all these years. The issue is majorly in pre-primary classes in several other schools too,” he added.
The Bodakdev School for Children has sent several notices to the parents asking them not to send children with symptoms to school. “We have even assured them that the identity of the child would not be revealed to avoid any kind of social boycott. This is not a new disease but after the Covid pandemic, parents have realized the option of online classes (because of) which they are demanding (it) after this HFMD outbreak,” said Bodakdev School principal Amoli Patel.
Also, there have been instances where parents have under-reported or concealed the children’s illness. “There might be cases but children are not coming to school,” said JG International School principal Kavita Sharma.
A paediatrician at a government hospital, on the condition of anonymity, added that while OPD cases have not seen a rise in the incidence of HFMD in government hospitals, there is a rise in numbers reported by the private paediatricians. “Given that the virus enters through the mouth, it is important to take care that children keep their hands away from the mouth. The key is to avoid contact and contamination,” the pediatrician added.
“We are also seeing misdiagnosis of cases of fungal infection in some instances such as HFMD. Fungal infections are usually localized to the area of exposure and present with blisters or lesions,” said Dr. Desai.