Thailand must prepare for more dangerous EV-A71 HFMD virus, warns virologist


Enterovirus A71 (EV-A71), which causes hand, foot and mouth disease, can also cause severe neurological diseases like meningitis, a top virologist warned on Saturday.

In a Facebook post, Dr Yong Poovorawan said hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) can be caused by several types of viruses in the enterovirus family. The most common types are CA6, CA16 CB and Enterovirus A, while the most dangerous type is EV-A71, which can cause meningitis or inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain.

This virus usually affects small children and infants but is rarely seen among adolescents and adults.

“The HFMD cases found this year were mostly caused by the CA6 virus, which often manifests in the form of blisters in the palate of the mouth, hands, feet, elbows and buttocks,” he said.

“The last time Thailand experienced an outbreak of the EV-A71 virus was five years ago. Our centre [Chulalongkorn University’s Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology] has been monitoring the outbreak of HFMD over the past 10 years and has come up with charts comparing each virus variant found for the sake of treatment and prevention.”

Yong explained that the disease usually spreads after schools reopen as children come into closer contact with one another.

“Currently, the vaccine for the prevention of HFMD is specific to the virus that causes it,” he said. “This means this year we will give children a vaccine to counter the CA6 virus, not EV-A71 because it has not been reported in Thailand yet.”

Yong added that researchers are working on coming up with a vaccine that can prevent HFMD caused by enterovirus across different strains.