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Of the many viruses found in humans, some have mild to moderate symptoms that go away on their own over time, while others require serious treatment to help rid the body of pathogens and get patients back to their optimal level of health.
Some viruses, including the coxsackie virus, can fall into both categories – one version of the illness can require treatment, while the other can often go away on its own. The virus itself is generally found in children under the age of 10, but it has been known to infect younger adults as well.
What is coxsackie virus?
The coxsackie viruses are RNA viruses. Often called enteroviruses, they are made up of only one strand of RNA (ribonucleic acid). The viruses that are part of the coxsackie family can lead to hand, foot, and mouth disease, as well as other conditions that affect the lungs, heart, and muscles.
There are two very distinct types of coxsackie virus: type A and type B. Type A is the coxsackie virus that leads to hand, foot, and mouth disease. In the majority of cases, a Type A coxsackie virus clears up on its own in a matter of days to weeks, but the virus itself can be shed for weeks following the initial infection. A Type B coxsackie virus can lead to epidemic pleurodynia (a febrile disorder) and often resolves itself within 2–12 days of initial infection. Both types of coxsackie virus are highly contagious and can be shed through fecal matter even after the virus has cleared up in the patient.
What are the symptoms of coxsackie virus?
The virus was first recorded in the mid-1900s by scientist Gilbert Dalldorf when he was trying to discover a cure for another ailment. This led to the discovery that coxsackie was able to mimic mild cases of polio. Following this, Dalldorf learned that coxsackie viruses could cause a variety of different illnesses.
The symptoms of coxsackie virus vary depending on the type and typically appear within three to six days of the initial infection. In those with Type A coxsackie, symptoms include sores in the throat, otherwise known as herpangina. It can also lead to sores and lesions in the mouth, on the palms of the hands, and on the soles of the feet. Type B symptoms include fever, headache, and abdominal and chest spasms, although a fever is usually the first symptom to appear. In both types A and B, more serious complications can arise in those who have a subtype of the virus. These conditions include meningitis, myocarditis, and pericarditis, but it is rare for these to develop.
How do you test for coxsackie virus?
Generally speaking, diagnosis of coxsackie virus occurs by a physical exam performed by a doctor when a blister-like rash is present on the hands, feet, and mouth. This method of diagnosis saves money on tests in the long run because doctors believe that if the rashes are present, then the ailment is easy to spot. There are, however, viral tests that can be done if the infection cannot be confirmed through physical exam alone.
To get a definitive diagnosis for coxsackie virus, rectal swabs or stool samples will be taken and isolated in a cell culture. This is to ensure the virus is present in a patient who may not be exhibiting typical symptoms. Doctors will also check for specific antibodies in patients who may have recovered from the illness prior to testing. In those who develop serious complications, testing for bacterial meningitis is crucial so that the appropriate treatment can be administered.
A new ELISpot test being developed by Infectolab is changing the way coxsackie virus can be diagnosed. The test takes into account T-cell production to help doctors get a more definitive picture of whether the infection is present in the body. The new test will help to eliminate any holes in testing, which in turn will lead to more accurate diagnosis of the virus in patients.
How do you treat coxsackie virus?
Treatment for coxsackie virus is tricky because there is no specific medication designed to combat it. Because it is a viral infection, antibiotics cannot be used during a treatment course as they will have no effect on the virus itself.
It is usually recommended that parents of children with coxsackie virus (as well as young adults who become infected) focus on treating the viral symptoms such as fever, headache, sore throat, and rash. This can be done using over-the-counter anti-inflammatories as well as medications designed to bring temperature down. Because many cases of coxsackie virus are mild in nature, treatment of any kind may not be required, and the infection should clear up on its own within a couple of weeks.
In the case of serious complications, though, treatment may differ. If the coxsackie infection leads to meningitis, for example, hospitalization may be necessary, with treatment in the form of intravenous medications such as antibiotics and sometimes corticosteroids.
Is coxsackie the same as “hand foot mouth”?
The name “hand, foot, and mouth disease” comes from the places lesions appear on the body when someone is infected with the coxsackie virus. Hand, foot, and mouth disease is caused by the presence of the coxsackie virus in the body.
As mentioned above, in children the disease presents as sores and lesions in the mouth, throat, feet, and hands. Adults who contract the virus may appear asymptomatic while infected. This can lead to undiagnosed cases, meaning they can also pass it on without ever realizing they have contracted the disease.