The epidemiological characteristics and spatio-temporal analysis of childhood hand, foot and mouth disease in Korea, 2011-2017


Hand-foot-mouth disease (HFMD) is a common viral infection in children, with a significant disease burden due to its high contagion rate. This report studied the epidemiological characteristics as well as the chronological and geographical distribution of HFMD in children younger than 6 years of age in Korea.


This report established a database by integrating population and geographical data from health insurance claims for HFMD between 2011 and 2017, with an age restriction of ≤6 years, and explored the epidemiological characteristics of both HFMD patients and hospitalized cases in Korea. The relative risk ratio and spatio-temporal scan statistics were calculated by administrative district, using SaTScan.


Over a 7-year period, 1,879,342 children under the age of 6 were diagnosed with HFMD (8.4 of 100 persons younger than 6 years of age). Seasonal incidence tended to increase from week 17 (May) peak between weeks 29 (July) and 39 (September), and increase rapidly in 1- to 2-year cycles. HFMD primarily occurred in children younger than 4 years of age. Furthermore, the greatest proportion of cases occurred at ages 1 (39.2%) and 2 (25.7%). Overall, 92.6% of all cases occurred before the age of 6. The proportion of cases before the age of 6was slightly higher in males. The timing of HFMD epidemics differed over the years. In 2015, the HFMD cumulative incidence was the lowest (5.5/1,000), and the spatio-temporal cluster (RR 2.32) was predominantly located south-central Korea, covering 65 counties for twenty-two weeks. In 2016, however, its cumulative incidence was high (RR 6.34) over a short period (11 weeks) in specific areas such as Ulsan, Daegu, Busan, and Gyeongnam. Also, the southern parts of Korea were found to have a higher rate of hospitalization.


HFMD in Korea is common in children younger than 6 years of age, and it tends to peak in the summer.