Scientists have issued warnings about the hand, foot and mouth disease (HFM disease).

Once confined to Asia, the disease started appearing in the US in late 2011 or early 2012. So far, most cases have occurred in Florida. HFM disease usually affects children and is most common in those who are under five years old.

It is contagious and readily transmitted in public restrooms and daycare centers. It is particularly common in crowded places. The disease usually runs its course in about a week.

The first symptom is a fever that lasts one or two days. Unusual irritability, poor appetite and a sore throat are also early symptoms. About one or two days after onset, the patient develops painful sores in their mouth. At first, the sores look like small red spots but they gradually become ulcers.

The child will also develop a rash that occurs mainly on the soles of their feet and/or the palms of their hands. The rash takes the form of flat or raised red spots that don’t itch.

Some of the spots may develop into blisters. HFM disease is caused by a virus that is transmitted from person to person by contact with the stools or bodily fluids of somebody infected.

While there is currently no cure for HFM disease, parents can take steps to prevent their child from getting it. They should make certain their child washes their hands frequently, especially after being in a day care center or crowded place.

Parents should also make certain their child does not share their food or drink with other children.