FAIRMONT - A recent outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease in the area has moms groups, daycares and church nurseries on alert.
The disease causes sores in the mouth and on the palms and soles of children, causing pain and general malaise. It is often accompanied by fever and rash.
According to Linda McClintock, nurse practitioner at The Clinic at Walmart, the outbreak can be relatively difficult to contain because children are contagious three to six days before they start to show symptoms.
Caused by a virus, the only treatment is analgesic medication, such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen for the discomfort.
"There is nothing we can do to make it get better faster," McClintock said.
Women in their first trimester of pregnancy are at greater risk for miscarriage if exposed to the virus, and affected children are at a slightly higher risk for pneumonia.
McClintock said adults are rarely affected by the virus because they have immunity to it. Most sufferers are babies, toddlers and young children.
The only course of action for parents is to keep children who experience a rash or fever home from school or daycare.
McClintock said if a child refuses to eat for an extended period because of painful sores in the mouth, experiences headaches or lethargy, he or she should be brought in to see a medical professional.
The disease is not related to hoof and mouth disease, a virus that sometimes causes illness in livestock.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the spread of the disease can be slowed by frequently washing hands, especially after diaper changes; thoroughly cleaning objects and surfaces (toys, doorknobs, etc.) that may be contaminated; and avoiding close contact (such as kissing and hugging) with people who are infected.