Parents question schools' notification on disease

Sarasota children infected with hand, foot and mouth disease are raising the issue locally.

SARASOTA -- Tonight, parents are concerned after they say their child’s school didn’t inform them that a contagious virus may be spreading from student to student.

This all started after a Facebook post from a concerned parent who wanted to know if schools should be informing them after a child was diagnosed with hand foot and mouth disease.

RELATED STORY: Hand, foot and mouth disease outbreak at FSU, what you need to know

Many parents like Frank Herbold say they want to know after two children at Lakeview Elementary School in Sarasota had cases of Hand Foot and Mouth disease, a viral illness that spreads easily through coughing and sneezing; which is why it's a often a problem in schools and day cares.

“It would be nice for parents to know,” says Herbold.

But the Sarasota school district tells 10News that's not its policy. The school was notified by the children's parents and then the school alerted teachers. 

An email was sent by the school's health room to Lakeview staff:

 "Just to inform you that some of our students in kindergarten classes have had this condition (HFM). This is caused by not washing up after bathroom and by not using proper cough etiquette, which should be emphasized in the classroom. When a student is returning to school they should be rash-free or have a physician note of diagnosis stating not contagious and no fever for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine. The symptoms are fever, rash and mouth sores. If any questions please contact the clinic."

But not other parents. The reason? The district says hand foot and mouth disease is not a virus that needs to be reported to parents or the Florida Department of Health

“I think that’s something that needs to be looked into. Keeping parents uninformed about a serious infection is not wise,” says Herbold.

Click here to see diseases reported to health departments

We checked and the Health Department gave us a list of diseases that have to be reported. It includes the mumps and chicken pox. The district says in those cases they would consider sending out a letter. Still, that's not good enough for some parents who think whether an illness is on the list or not they should still be notified.

Pinellas County Schools and Pasco County Schools says that if two or more students had hand foot and mouth disease they would consider sending something out.

The Communications Specialist of Sarasota County Schools had this to say:

Parents may elect to take their children to a hospital at any time. That's their call, of course. The fact that a parent takes a child to the hospital as a precautionary measure does not necessarily mean we would contact other parents, or that a school would even know that.

As the CDC website notes, "Hand, foot and mouth disease is a common viral illness that usually affects infants and children younger than 5 years old." We usually don't inform parents about common illnesses that run their course in a few days, as this disease generally does.

We work closely with the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County on public health matters; they have a system for determining when symptoms are showing up in more than a few cases at our schools. In cases where certain symptoms of illnesses are showing up in larger numbers than in just a few students, we confer with the Health Department and determine whether to notify parents.

When we do contact parents about symptoms appearing in relatively large numbers at their child's school, we may ask them to take certain precautions, including keeping their children at home if they are exhibiting certain symptoms.

This was an isolated instance of two students with a common viral illness who were not in school when their illness was reported to the school by parents. One student has already returned to school after the family followed the protocol...

For the complete list of reported diseases, CLICK HERE.

The district also says the two students never displayed symptoms of the disease in the classroom.

Here is the Sarasota School District’s Policy on Hand Foot and Mouth Disease:

Signs and Symptoms:

 *       Fever

 *       Sores in mouth

 *       Rash on hands and feet.

NOTE: The fever is usually gone in 3 or 4 days. The mouth ulcers usually resolve in 7 days, but the rash on the hands and feet can last up to 10 days. This disease mainly occurs in children 6 months to 4 years of age.

 Cause:

 *       Enterovirus, especially Coxsackie A 16.

 Incubation Period:

 *       The time from contact to the development of signs and symptoms ranges from 3-6 days.

 Transmission:

 *       The illness is transmitted through respiratory droplets or direct contact with nasal or throat secretions of infected persons or fecal-oral route.

 Treatment:

 *       Parent/guardian should be advised to take a child with the above symptoms to a physician to be diagnosed.

 Prevention:

 *       Hand washing, as always, is important to prevent the spread of the virus with emphasis on hand washing after toileting.

 *       Proper cough etiquette should also be emphasized.

 Complications:

 *       The most frequent complication is dehydration from refusing fluids due to mouth ulcers.

 School Action:

 *       For re-entry to school: If rash is present, a physician statement of diagnosis and "not contagious" must accompany the student.

 *       Student is to remain at home until at least 24 hours after there is no longer a fever (without the use of a fever-reducing medicine).

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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