Question: I am 20 weeks pregnant and my small child was diagnosed with a viral illness which the doctor thinks is hand foot and mouth disease (HFMD) by a coxsackie virus. What can I do to prevent from becoming infected?

Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HMFD) is caused by viruses that belong to the Enterovirus genus (group), which includes polioviruses, coxsackieviruses, echoviruses, and other enteroviruses.

  • Coxsackievirus A16 is typically the most common cause of hand, foot, and mouth disease in the United States, but other coxsackieviruses can also cause the illness.
  • Enterovirus 71 has also been associated with cases and outbreaks of hand, foot, and mouth disease, mostly in children in East and Southeast Asia. Less often, enterovirus 71 has been associated with severe diseases, such as encephalitis.
  • Several types of enteroviruses may be identified in outbreaks of hand, foot and mouth disease, but most of the time, only one or two enteroviruses are identified.

Other viruses known to possibly affect the fetus during pregnancy include:

  • Chickenpox  Virus
  • Rubella Virus
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Herpes simplex virus
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus
  • Measles Virus
  • Parvovirus (Fifth Disease)

Other known viruses include human papillomavirus (HPV), and enteroviruses such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and coxsackievirus.

If you are exposed to coxsackievirus during pregnancy chances are very small that the fetus will be affected. Specific preventive medications are not available for most viral diseases such as coxsackievirus and hand foot and mouth disease (HFMD).

But the risk of infection can be lowered by following good hygiene practices.

Good hygiene practices that can lower the risk of viral infection include:

  • Washing hands frequently and correctly and especially after changing diapers and after using the toilet.
  • Possibly using gloves and face masks
  • Cleaning dirty surfaces and soiled items, including toys, first with soap and water and then disinfecting them by cleansing with a solution of chlorine bleach (made by adding 1 tablespoon of bleach to 4 cups of water
  • Avoiding close contact (kissing, hugging, sharing eating utensils or cups, etc.) with infected persons. 
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