The most common cause of hand-foot-and-mouth disease is infection with the coxsackievirus A16. The coxsackievirus belongs to a group of viruses called nonpolio enteroviruses. Other enteroviruses sometimes cause hand-foot-and-mouth disease.
Oral ingestion is the main source of coxsackievirus infection and hand-foot-and-mouth disease. The illness spreads by person-to-person contact with an infected person's:
- Nasal secretions or throat discharge
- Fluid from blisters
- Respiratory droplets sprayed into the air after a cough or sneeze
Common in child care setting
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is most common in children in child care settings because of frequent diaper changes and potty training, and because little children often put their hands in their mouths.
Although your child is most contagious with hand-foot-and-mouth disease during the first week of the illness, the virus can remain in his or her body for weeks after the signs and symptoms are gone. That means your child still can infect others.
Some people, particularly adults, can pass the virus without showing any signs or symptoms of the disease.
Outbreaks of the disease are more common in summer and autumn in the United States and other temperate climates. In tropical climates, outbreaks occur year-round.
Different from foot-and-mouth disease
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease isn't related to foot-and-mouth disease (sometimes called hoof-and-mouth disease), which is an infectious viral disease found in farm animals. You can't contract hand-foot-and-mouth disease from pets or other animals, and you can't transmit it to them.
- Hand, foot, & mouth disease (HFMD): Fast facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/revb/enterovirus/hfhf.htm. Accessed July 12, 2011.
- Ng JJ, et al. Hand-foot-mouth disease. In: Ferri FF. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2012. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2011. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/linkTo?type=bookHome&isbn=978-0-323-05611-3&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05611-3..C2009-0-38601-8--TOP&uniq=266352183-2. Accessed July 12, 2011.
- Modlin JF. Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of enterovirus infections. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed July 12, 2011.
- Non-polio enterovirus infections. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/revb/enterovirus/non-polio_entero.htm. Accessed July 13, 2011.
- Belazarian L, et al. Exanthematous viral diseases. In: Wolff K, et al. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 7th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2008. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=2997642. Accessed July 13, 2011.