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Coxsackievirus Infection: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Treatments And Prevention

Coxsackievirus is a virus type that belongs to the genus Enterovirus (that also includes hepatitis A and poliovirus). The virus has a single strand of ribonucleic acid (RNA). The infection caused due to Coxsackievirus is called Coxsackievirus infection (CI) or hand, foot and mouth disease. [1]

CI is a highly contagious infection that can easily spread from individual to individual through direct contact by contaminated hands, saliva, respiratory droplets and faeces. People of all ages can get infected with the virus, but children under the age five are widely affected. Take a look at the details.

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Causes Of Coxsackievirus Infection

Coxsackievirus is divided into two main groups; A and B which are further divided into many serotypes. The A16 coxsackievirus is mainly responsible for CI and spreads through [2]:

  • Infected person's cough or sneeze
  • Infected faeces (when changing baby's diaper and then toughing mucous membranes like eyes, nose and mouth)
  • Kissing or hugging
  • Eating meals together
  • Touching infected objects or surfaces
  • Touching infected fluids from blisters
  • From a pregnant mother to newborns

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Symptoms Of Coxsackievirus Infection

The incubation period of coxsackievirus is between 1-5 days. The infection is more contagious during the first week of the arrival of symptoms. Common symptoms of CI include:

  • Painful red blisters on cheeks, tongue, palms and sole of the feet [3]
  • Itching rashes on palms of hands, buttocks, genitals and soles of the feet.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Cough and fever
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal muscle pain (short-period)
  • Upper respiratory tract infection

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Risk Factors Of Coxsackievirus Infection

  • Living in rural areas
  • Children below age 5 [4]
  • Poor hygiene
  • Weak immune system
  • Being infected with CI during pregnancy as the virus may get transmitted to the foetus and cause serious problems.
  • Attending daycare by an infected child [5]

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Complications Of Coxsackievirus Infection

The CI may progress to cause the following complications:

  • Viral meningitis [6]
  • Inflammation of the heart muscles
  • Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)
  • Pneumonia
  • Orchitis (in young boys)

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Diagnosis Of Coxsackievirus Infection

Common diagnostic methods for CI include:

  • Physical examination: To lookout for signs of blisters, rashes and other symptoms. [7]
  • Throat swab test: To test for the presence of the virus.
  • Stool test: To confirm the presence of the virus.
  • ECG or ultrasound of the heart: To look out for inflammation of the heart.
  • Lumbar puncture: Done by taking a spinal fluid sample to check for meningitis.

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Treatment Of Coxsackievirus Infection

There's no specific vaccine available for CI. As children grow up, their body develops immunity against the virus. Mild cases of CI usually clear on their own while sometimes the condition may get severe. Common treatment methods include:

  • OTC medications: To relieve discomfort, pain, reduce fever and rashes. [8]
  • Prescribed mouthwash: To relieve oral discomfort.
  • Topical gels: To relive rashes and blisters discomfort of the hands and foot.

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How To Prevent Coxsackievirus Infection

  • Maintain strict hand hygiene
  • Regularly clean play items and clothes of children
  • Disinfect the house regularly
  • Drink enough water
  • Eat foods that help boost the immune system
  • If you observe rashes and blisters, don't poke or harsh itch them.

Common FAQs

1. Are coxsackievirus hand foot and mouth disease?

Yes, coxsackievirus infection is also called hand, foot and mouth disease. This is because the virus mainly causes rashes and blisters on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Coxsackievirus belongs to genus Enterovirus.

2. How long are you contagious with Coxsackie virus?

Coxsackievirus is highly contagious in the first week of its symptoms. Several reports suggest that the virus can be found in respiratory tracts for around three weeks while in faeces for eight weeks. However, they are less contagious during this time.

Story first published: Saturday, July 25, 2020, 15:30 [IST]