Coxsackieviruses are part of a family of viruses that live in the human digestive tract. They are easily spread from person to person, either on unwashed hands and surfaces contaminated by feces or through the air when someone sneezes or coughs.
The risk for coxsackievirus infection is highest among infants and children younger than 5. It's highly contagious in group settings like schools, childcare centers, and camps. In the U.S., outbreaks of these infections most often occur in the summer and fall.
Coxsackieviruses can produce a wide variety of symptoms, including high fever, headache, muscle aches, sore throat, rash, abdominal discomfort, and nausea. They're also responsible for conditions such as hand, foot, and mouth disease; herpangina (a type of throat infection); and hemorrhagic conjunctivitis (a type of eye infection).
In most cases, coxsackievirus infections are mild and go away without treatment. Sometimes, however, coxsackieviruses can cause life-threatening brain and heart infections that need to be treated in the hospital.
There is no vaccine to prevent coxsackievirus infection. Hand washing is the best protection.
While some coxsackievirus infections can be serious, most will clear up within a week with plenty of rest and fluids.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
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