Daniel Levy, a pediatrician in Owings Mills, Md., says that he has seen a normal amount of HFMD and the cases don't seem any more severe than usual. Pediatricians at Children's National Medical Center in Washington echoed Levy's experience."I have yet to see any child hospitalized or sent to the ER [for HFMD] in my career; it is just not that serious," Levy says. "It sounds a lot worse than it is."
The A6 version is odd, for a number of reasons. It causes more severe rashes up the legs, around the mouth and, especially for toddlers, on the buttocks. Arca reports that in some cases, after the rash has gone away, the skin can peel and the fingernails and toenails can fall off. "It's scary, but they'll grow back," she says.
Also, more adults than usual seem to be catching the new strain, according to the CDC. That's probably because A6 has circulated only sporadically in the United States since 1970, so fewer adults were exposed to it when they were younger, according to Oberste. A6 was big in Japan in the spring and summer of 2011.
"That's how these viruses travel. You'll see an outbreak in one country, and they get to other countries within a year or so," says Eileen Schneider, a medical epidemiologist at CDC. "Then they go back to a low level."
Virtually all of the adults who have caught it have small children or work in day care centers or schools, Oberste says. Some people infected with HFMD — usually adults, rather than children — have no symptoms.
"A lot more parents have been getting it, and they say, 'Oh my gosh, my poor baby! This is really painful,'" Arca says.