More youngsters in Singapore have been afflicted with hand, foot and mouth disease recently as the number of cases has risen beyond the epidemic level for the second time in two years.
The number of new incidents reported to the Ministry of Health (MOH) increased to 993 for the week up to 29 February, above the epidemic threshold and more than that of the previous week.
Last year, the total number of cases in January and February was 1,627, as compared to the sharp spike to 4,449 cases which occurred in same period this year.
Children who have contracted the virus suffer from fever, sore throat, rashes, mouth ulcers, poor appetite, lethargy and small blisters on the palms of their hands, soles of feet, or buttocks.
Pat's Schoolhouse, a childcare center in Serangoon, was forced to close down for ten days on 15 February as a precautionary measure.
According to MOH regulations, if more than 16 pupils or 23 per cent of the population in a childcare center or kindergarten fall prey to the disease within a 24-day period, the school has to close down for ten days to break the virus transmission and allow the staff to disinfect the area.
Four childcare centres deemed to be at risk of prolonged HFMD transmission are being closely monitored by MOH, as they have more than 10 cases of the disease or an attack rate greater than 13 per cent, and a transmission period of more than 16 days.
The childcare centres in question, PCS Ang Mo Kio Centre, Bright Kids School House in Lengkok Bahru, Cherie Hearts at Mountbatten and Mulberry Learning Academy in Choa Chu Kang have not been closed yet.
As of this week, 17 childcare centres and kindergartens have been placed on MOH's list for monitoring.
However, a Ministry of Health (MOH) spokesperson said that the term "epidemic level" is purely scientific and does not indicate a health crisis.
It has assured the public that the particular strain of virus currently circulating around is not of the EV71 type, which is said to be associated with "potentially serious complications".
The current form of the virus being transmitted is mild and children can recover relatively easily after falling ill.
The Ministry added that it is working to ensure that preschools and childcare centres adhere to strict hygiene standards, and conducts random spot checks.