Disease, hand-foot-and-mouth: A viral syndrome with a rash on the hands and feet and in the mouth. The internal rash (the enanthem) consists of blisters and little ulcers that may involve not only the lining of the mouth but also the gums, palate, and tongue. The external rash on the body (the exanthem) typically affects the hands (most commonly), feet and, sometimes, the buttocks. There may also be sore throat, irritability, decreased appetite, and fever.
The disease is caused by various viruses, including several types of coxackievirus-coxsackieviruses A16 (most often), A5, A9, A10, B1 and B3, and enterovirus 71. The incubation period is short, on the order of 4 to 6 days. The disease is most frequent in summer and fall. The rate of clinical expression in hand-foot-and-mouth disease is high with the enanthem-exanthem pattern evident in nearly 100% of preschoolers, nearly 40% of school-age children and about 10% of adults. The illness is characteristically self-limited and is usually over and done within a week when due to its most common cause: coxsackievirus A16. In outbreaks due to enterovirus 71, the illness may be more severe with complications such as viral meningitis and encephalitis and paralytic disease. However, hand-foot-and-mouth disease as a rule tends fortunately to be mild and self-limited.
The condition was first reported in 1956 in Australia and by the early 60s had emerged as a common childhood illness around the world. It is also called hand-foot-and-mouth syndrome. The hyphens are sometimes dropped and it is termed hand, foot, and mouth disease or syndrome.