There’s an outbreak of Hand, Foot and Mouth disease in several schools.

That’s the word this afternoon from the Ministry of Education.

A statement from the Ministry says the outbreak of the disease forced the closure of the Bridgeport Primary and Infant School in Portmore, St. Catherine.

Nationwide News understands that the disease has also forced the closure of the Reliance Basic School also in St. Catherine.

The Education Ministry’s statement does not list the schools which it says have been affected by the outbreak of the disease.

Neither does it mention the parish or parishes most affected by the disease.

The statement says the Ministry of Health has responded to reports of the disease outbreak.

It says school administrators have been directed to adhere to the guidelines for the management of viruses in schools.

The Health Ministry says the hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a common childhood illness caused by a coxsackie virus.

The coxsackie virus is one which causes various respiratory, neurological and muscular diseases in humans.

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease often occurs during the spring and fall season and is most frequently seen in young children, infants, and toddlers.

It’s characterized by fever and a blister-like rash affecting the palms of the hands and soles of the feet along with blisters inside the mouth.

Schools should regularly clean all areas and items that are more likely to have frequent hand contact.

Common commercial disinfection agents should be used.

Those children suspected of having the disease should be immediately separated from the general school population and sent home.

Parents of young infants are urged to seek medical care if a high fever develops.

When our news centre sought to get a response from the Ministry of Health, we were referred to several different officers, none of whom could provide any information.

Calls placed to the mobile phones of the Permanent Secretary in the Health Ministry, Dr. Kevin Harvey and the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Marion Bullock-Ducasse, went unanswered.

Meanwhile, the South East Regional Health Authority, SERHA, says it’s closely monitoring cases of Hand, Foot and Mouth disease that have been found in at least three schools in Kingston and St. Andrew and six in St. Catherine.

According to SERHA, the Health Departments in the respective parishes have been working closely with the schools to minimise the spread of the disease.

The schools have also been given guidelines for the management of the disease and Public Health Inspectors have been deployed to the schools to assess the situation.