Canadian warship plagued by hand, foot, and mouth disease

Canada’s only operational warship deployed for a NATO mission was hit by an outbreak of hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD).  The HMCS Charlottetown sailed on June 27 from Halifax to join Operation Reassurance, a Canadian contribution and support to NATO’s measure in Central and Eastern Europe after Russia´s aggression against Ukraine. 

Reports confirmed that at least 20 crew members were infected with HFMD. Daniel LeBouthillier said in an email, “CAF members with HFMD on board HMCS Charlottetown are being treated to help alleviate their symptoms as required individually.  No specific antiviral agent is available for therapy or prevention of HFMD. Treatment is supportive and focuses on management of complications.”

At mid July, the ship was in the Black Sea, cooperating with NATO’s mission.  By the time it returned, there were only two cases which were treated accordingly, according to Capt. Nicola LaMarre. “None of the cases of HFMD on board HMCS Charlottetown have caused serious illness or impacted operations. All of the members are being treated by the medical personnel on board the ship in accordance with established medical protocols,” she said.

There is no specific treatment or vaccination against HFMD.  Instead, there is medication to relieve the symptoms.  Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a sickness that causes painful oral lesions and sores on the hands and feet. It is more common in little children, although it can present itself in adults. Other symptoms include fever, sore throat, vomiting and/or diarrhea.

The disease is easily spread through sneezing or coming in contact with infected surfaces. An infected person might touch a doorknob after sneezing on his hand.  The next person merely needs to touch that doorknob to spread the disease. 

As of August 9, only two cases of HFMD from the HMCS Charlottetown were treated and there was no report of any illness complication.

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