What is herpangina?
Herpangina is an acute, self-limited viral illness often seen in young children during the summer months. Affected children usually complain of mouth sores and fever. A number of viruses, all members of the Enterovirus family, cause herpangina. Coxsackievirus, a member of the Enterovirus family, is the most common cause of the infection. At the onset of symptoms, most children develop a high fever and complain of a sore throat. They then develop vesicles (blisters) or ulcers (sores) at the back of the throat and palate. Children, especially younger children, may refuse to eat or drink because of the pain and are at risk for developing signs and symptoms of dehydration.
What causes herpangina?
Several common members of the Coxsackie A virus family and a number of other enteroviruses (for example, retrovirus 71) can cause herpangina. The viruses are usually spread via the “fecal-oral route” (contamination of hands and other surfaces with fecal matter) or via the “respiratory route” (air droplets from coughing or sneezing). One can develop the illness from contact with either of these materials from an individual infected with one of these viruses. Interestingly, half of individuals infected with some of these Enterovirus family members remain asymptomatic (having no symptoms) which makes preventing transmission more difficult.
Is herpangina contagious?
Coxsackievirus infections are extremely contagious and can easily pass from child to child through contaminated surfaces, unwashed hands, and through sneezing and coughing. Typically, people infected with the virus are most contagious during the first week of illness. Animals and home pets do not pass virus from person to person.
How long is the incubation period for herpangina?
The normal course of the infection involves an incubation period (the duration between exposure to the virus and development of symptoms) lasting anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks. The infected individual is generally thought to be contagious during the incubation period.
Herpangina in Children
What is herpangina in children?
Herpangina is a sudden viral illness in children. It causes small blister-like bumps or sores (ulcers) in the mouth. They are often in the back of the throat or the roof of the mouth.
Herpangina is often seen in children between the ages 3 and 10. It is seen most often in the summer and fall.
What causes herpangina in a child?
Herpangina is caused by a virus. The most common viruses that cause it are:
- Coxsackie viruses A and B
- Enterovirus 71
- Echo virus
What are the symptoms of herpangina in a child?
Each child’s symptoms may feel a bit different. But below are the most common symptoms of herpangina:
- Blister-like bumps in the mouth, often in the back of the throat and on the roof of the mouth
- Sudden fever
- High fever, sometimes up to 106°F (41°C)
- Pain in the mouth or throat
- Decrease in appetite
- Neck pain
Viral causes of herpangina
Herpangina is is in most cases caused by a particular strain of group A coxsackievirus, but also by group B coxsackievirus, echo virus and retrovirus 71. Coxsackievirus is an retrovirus, and it is related to polio virus, echo virus, and other enteroviruses. These viruses are common, and are spread by human-to-human contact, contaminated objects like door handles and cutlery, droplet infection and by contaminated water.
A common disease related to herpangina is hand, foot and mouth disease (HF), which is caused by coxsackievirus A16 and retrovirus 71. Enterovirus 71 has been responsible for several outbreaks in East and Southeast Asia, and it is associated with encephalitis, though this is rare.
Hand, foot and mouth disease is very similar to herpangina, causing similar symptoms, including sores and lesions. The difference between herpangina and hand, foot and mouth disease is explained below.