Over the last few days all four of us have come down with Gastroenteritis (Gastric Flu, Winter Vomiting Sickness or call it what you will.)
Julia suddenly vomited during Saturday night for no apparent reason. It was the first time I remember her being sick since I swung her around a bit too energetically as a toddler…
At the time, I instantly thought NORO! (which is what all the Norovirus caused illnesses are colloquially called here in Japan) because of the suddenness and lack of preceding lethargy, whining, mardiness.
But she made a complete recovery in about 24 hours, which is usually not the case for such a powerful viral attack. Also, given the incredible “Boogey Man” image that Noro has been given here in the press, one expects to immediately, clearly and without doubt know if one has the virus, like coming home to find your house burgled.
However, we convinced ourselves that it was nothing, and so did Julia.
I’m talking purely from personal experience here you your milage may vary.
I’d worked an eleven hour day and had had a chirpy and cheerful conversation at the end of it with my boss and until that point had felt nothing untoward at all.
I had been alert, able to concentrate and perform my work as usual.
I was travelling home on the train from work at about 10.30 at night with a small can of beer when I first felt a bit odd. The first sign was heartburn and a slight uncomfortable feeling, like being too full.
At first I suspected the sushi I’d eaten at work that afternoon had been dodgy. Although it would have been the first time I’d ever got ill from Japanese food.
I started feeling a bit tired as a walked back home from the station. I just assumed it was probably because I was tired. It had been a hell of a long week…
Getting home, I managed three sets of exercises, but felt a little nauseated at the end of the third set and decided to cut short my second routine.
Thinking a nice shower would do me good I had one.
Then it hit me. It felt as if my abdomen was expanding, inflating. I started feeling fuller and fuller and more uncomfortable, like I’d drank a litre of soda in one go and then jumped up and down.
That was it; time to make the long distance call on the white china telephone.
It was 11:30.
From the first inklings of anything being amiss to being on my hands and knees in front of the Toto (cf. Armitage Shanks) was less than an hour.
Ten minutes later, I felt right as rain and went to bed as usual.
The next day, however, I had the usual symptoms of flu. A minor fever, lack of appetite, aches and pains, lethargy and a strange, completely uncharacteristic disdain for all housework!
This lasted for two days.
On the third day (today), I’m feeling about 90% again.
A day after me, Tomoko caught it and a day later, our youngest, Hana caught it; although the children seemed much less affected than we were.
Norovirus: Things to remember.
- Despite the huge media presence making it sound like the new Ebola, it is not a major life threatening disease, unless you are currently in a precariously weakened state. (Newborns should be referred to a clinic straight away, regardless.)
- The main danger posed is through dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhoea, which can be combatted through intake of regular, small volumes of liquid.
IT IS INCREDIBLY CONTAGIOUS!
- If you have it, don’t go out. Stay indoors, call in sick, keep your children at home. Unless you and your entire family suffer from a cleanliness related OCD, you will all come down with it in short order, so keep your children out of school.
- It can be passed on through children’s soiled nappies (diapers) and is especially easily transmitted through vomit.
- Incubation is short and contraction to full-blown sickness can be less than two days.
- The virus is hardy and can survive for days in the environment.
- Regular 60 degree hot wash is insufficient for complete disinfection. Use a hot, 85 degrees or hotter dishwasher (or chlorine based cleansers) to clean kitchen utensils and surfaces which may have been contaminated.
- It is not killed by alcohol or regular detergents. Clean all soiled linen and clothes with a mild solution of “traditional” chlorine, (not biological, enzyme or oxygen) based bleach.
- Note: Vomit soiled blankets, bedsheets and carpets can give rise to airborne transmission for an extended period once dry, if not cleaned with steam or chlorine.
- Do not prepare or handle food for others.
- Practice a good hygiene regimen of hand cleaning and regular replacement of towels, etc. to minimise traces.
- Stay at home, drink lots of liquids. Hydration is the one and only concern.
- It’s a virus with no known cure or directly effective treatment. Just let it run its course and all will be well in two to three days.
- Again, it’s a virus, don’t let your doctor pump you up with pointless antibiotics unless you have a special need.
- Symptoms including nausea and aches and pains can be tackled with regular stomach preparations and paracetamol. (Although headache tablets such as Aspirin can exacerbate poor stomach conditions.)
Without wanting to sound condescending or trite, this is a blog, not a medical journal.
Being well informed by reading accurate, reliable, recognised sources of information is perhaps one of the best health precautions one can take, so please use this information only as a starting point for making an informed and educated decision, rather than as a complete guide, and if in doubt, contact your GP.
Guys and gals, I’d like to point out that I am not a sheep, even though I have a Welsh surname. Nor am I suffering from an affliction of the herd.
I had (past tense) hand foot and mouth disease (HFMD) as opposed to Foot and Mouth (FMD), also known as Hoof and Mouth Disease (HMD).
Don’t any of you guys and gals out there actually *read* my posts??? 🙂
You’ll no doubt be relieved to know that Julia has recovered fully from HFMD and I never really got more than a couple of little splintery like twinges in the palms of my hands.
Julia had a fever which pushed 40C over the weekend. She had some fever medicine which brought her down to about 38C and throat syrup in case she had a sore thoat. I stopped Tomoko from giving Julia the obligatory antibiotics from the doctor since they don’t do anything against a virus.
Some of the major symptoms were supposed to include lethargy, lack of enthusiasm and loss of appetite. Julia suffered none of the above. In fact, we had trouble getting her to calm down for bed!
On Sunday, the small spots on her hands turned reddish but she never developed blisters or sores anywhere.
She also had a few spots below her nose, but they didn’t even really turn red.
According to the doctor, it was a particularly mild case, rare in children below the age of three, who usually become quite ill for a week.
Julia even managed to go to nursery on Monday after a cursory checkup, since the doctor said that because she had no blisters, there was little to no chance of infecting the other children.
Way to go JooJoo!
Here are a few pictures of Julia’s hands at the peak of the illness…
No need to cover your eyes or stop eating. 😉
It first starts off with little pin pricks of white spots, like the ones on her hand above. These thend develop and turn red. In most cases, the spots will turn into blisters and sores which require regular cleaning and attention. The liquid in the blisters is highly contagious and should be cleaned away thoroughly.
In Julia’s case, however, no blisters ever developed. These red patched faded away and by today, Monday, they are hardly visible.
Julia went to the doctor’s yesterday after banging her head on the coffee table and was told that although the injury was luckily nothing beyond having a black-eye, she’d somehow contracted Hand Foot and Mouth Disease.
When I heard that, I hurriedly looked it up online. Of course, I imediately thought she’d contracted Foot and Mouth disease, and wondered if the lamb in the curry I’d eaten last weekend – and subsequently given an insistant Julia a little taste of – was entirely dead at the time of consumption or not.
Then I read that foot and mouth is nigh on impossible to catch from food… hmm…
Of course, a few minutes of Wikipedia and British Medical Journal referencing later, I realised that the two: hand, foot and mouth disease and foot and mouth disease are completely unrelated.
I won’t shock you into donating money to charity – or at least put you off your food – with photos of the poor afflicted souls (actually, there’d not be much to see) so I’ll show you a picture of the trend-lines instead.
One of the things I always like to do when I learn about a disease or phenomenon for the first time is plot it out on Google Trends. This very nicely shows just how worried people are about something.
I found out that people are so worried about it they’ve started using the abbreviated term as of March, 2008.
In order to put an end to your obvious and kind concerns for our health, dear readers, I can assure you once and for all that under normal circumstances, this disease in not life threatening.
I had thought that something was amiss last week when I started getting slight prickly sensations in the palm of my hands and fingers here and there, only noticeable when I picked something up or accidentally brushed the affected areas. At first I assumed that I’d somehow got little splinters in my fingers – I’d packed a load of cardboard up for disposal a couple of days before. I looked closely at each affected spot but could see nothing.
A few days later, different parts of my hands felt like they had splinters in them and the original ones had gone and there was definite tiny, almost invisible hard pimples here and there.
I started thinking that I had dry skin, Tomoko the optimist 😉 immediately said it was probably Gout… I don’t know why that particular one sprang into mind.
I tried putting cream on my hands and the problem seemed to go away after a couple of days.
Then, yesterday morning, for the first time I noticed a couple of little red spots on the backs of my hands. Just a couple. Tiny little red dots with pale white rings around them. Insects I thought… But I never get bitten by insects, not in spring anyway… still, not being the sleuthiest inspectorate on the block, I didn’t put two and two together.
Then Tomoko phoned me with Julia’s prognosis: HFMD.
And due to their immature immune systems, children suffer a lot worse than adults. Last night, Julia’s temperature went up to nearly 40C! And this morning, her hands were covered in red patches.
As for myself, I now have a sore throat and felt tired last night. That’s about it.
Typical symptoms include:
- High Fever
- Unsettled stomach and headache
- Loss of apetite
- Sore throat
- Red splotches which may turn into small blisters on palms of hands and fingers.
- Same on feet.
- Sometimes around the mouth, too… Hence the Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease.
Except for the spots on the hands, the symptoms are mildly flu-like.
It is an infection caused by Coxsackie A virus or Enterovirus 71 (EV71). There is no direct cure or treatment for the illness and it must be left to run its full course.
- Anitbiotics offer no help and are generally not administered (Although, if you live in Japan, you will receive complimentary antibiotics even if you visit a doctor with the flu – It’s part of their being polite!)
- Fever lowering treatment may be administered, headache tables and throat remedies may help.
- Creams and ointments to stop the itching and discomfort caused by the blsters and sores may be applied.
- Gargling with saltwater can help stop additional infections.
There’s a bit of a HFMD epedemic in Asia at the moment with tens of thousands of Asia mainland children affected. It looks like Japan has it, too.
I’ll keep you posted.