May 19– Nearly three-quarters of the second grade class at East Hardin Elementary School will miss the rest of the school year due to what health officials believe is a viral outbreak.
Kevin Morris, regional epidemiologist for the Tennessee Department of Health for West Tennessee, said today that, “considering all of the characteristics of the symptoms and in our best judgment based on decades of experience with these symptoms, we believe it to be viral and consistent with Coxsackie.”
Coxsackie, also known as “hand, foot and mouth disease” is a common childhood affliction that most often strikes children 5 years and younger, but older children are also susceptible. There is no recommended treatment, as the infection will generally run its own course in about one week.
Morris said that after his office was notified by East Hardin Elementary, the Department of Health immediately contacted Hardin County Schools medical personnel, local hospitals and health care providers to see if any children had sought medical treatment.
Morris identified several cases where parents had sought medical attention for sick children, and all were in the second grade class at East Hardin, with similar symptoms. The department also spoke with parents of children showing symptoms of the illness.
“Their blood work came back negative for other common childhood diseases such as (Streptococcus) or (Mononucleosis), and considering the symptoms such as fever, sore throat and stomach upset, plus the rates of transmission, the age of the children and the time of year, we’ve determined it is most likely Coxsackie,” Morris said.
He added that antibiotics will not treat the illness, and that the best way to stop an outbreak is to “interrupt transmission” and let it run its course. Children showing symptoms are asked to be kept home for the remainder of the school year, which ends Friday.
East Hardin Principal Todd Buczynski said that absences due to children showing symptoms of Coxsackie will be excused, and parents with questions should contact East Hardin. School officials are not requiring a note from a doctor.
The symptoms are: fever of 100 degrees or higher, sore throat, stomach ache, and blisters or rash to the body or mouth.
Ravi Kudumula, pediatrician for Lifespan Health, explained that Coxsackie is a common environmental virus that occurs often in childhood, especially among small children.