After an Alberta woman sounded the alarm on Facebook about multiple cases of hand-foot-and-mouth disease among children staying at the Royalton Riviera Cancun, the company managing the resort says it is taking action but does not consider the situation to be an "outbreak." 

Kat Boblin of Black Diamond, Alta., her boyfriend and her 19-month-old daughter were on vacation at the resort in February. A few days into their stay, the toddler developed a fever, rash and blisters all over her body, face, ears and throat.

Kat Boblin 2

'A lot of people think my post is to complain about the virus. That's not it,' says Kat Boblin. 'I mean, it's common. It's just how the resort handled things that really bothered me.' (Kat Boblin/Facebook)

She was in "really rough shape," Boblin said. "We panicked, naturally, and we took her to the resort doctor." 

The doctor diagnosed the child with hand-foot-and-mouth disease — a common viral illness among children — and sent the girl to see a pediatrician at a Cancun hospital, Boblin said. The pediatrician confirmed the diagnosis, gave the child a prescription and said she should stay out of the sun. He also said they should keep to themselves for the rest of their trip because the virus was highly contagious. 

Boblin remembered seeing another little girl with a bad rash in a pool at the resort and worried the virus was spreading. She spoke to staff to alert them and asked them to take extra precautions and notify other families with children staying at the hotel. 

"They didn't really seem to care that much," she said. "I was just so concerned about somebody else getting it." 

Boblin said she then went on travel review website TripAdvisor to note her concerns and discovered a post from another woman who had just stayed at the Royalton Riviera Cancun. The post said the woman's daughter, along with other children on their shuttle bus, had also been diagnosed with the virus.  

Facebook response

Boblin said she went back to resort staff and told them she was worried there was an outbreak. 

"I was like, 'I want you guys to just go and make sure all the other families here are aware of this,'" she said. "They refused."

That's when Boblin took to Facebook to let others know what was happening. In the days following, she said, more than 45 people contacted her saying they also knew children who contracted hand-foot-and-mouth disease at the resort.  

 

In a statement to CBC News Tuesday evening, Blue Diamond Resorts said it was "regretful that children who visited Royalton Riviera Cancun were affected by hand-foot-and-mouth disease during their stay," but did not consider it an outbreak.

"After a thorough investigation we can conclude that between December 2015, up to and including today, 7,200 children under 12 stayed at this expansive resort, and we have been made aware of 15 hand-foot-and-mouth cases both in-house and after travel," the statement said. "Eight of these cases have just been brought to our attention, but relate to travel over a period of the past 12 weeks." 

The statement also said rotating doctors who work at resorts in the area had become aware of an "increased incidence" of hand-foot-and-mouth disease in the region back in December and immediately implemented "frequent and aggressive" protocols to prevent infection, including disinfection and monitoring pool chlorination three times a day.

The resort is now implementing "more rigorous internal escalation measures to better identify cases so that we can try and prevent the spread of the virus if new cases are detected," the statement said. 

As of Wednesday morning, Boblin's Facebook post had been shared more than 33,000 times.

Boblin said she understands that hand-foot-and-mouth disease is not unusual among young children, but when it emerges in places like daycares, people usually take precautions and notify parents, she told CBC News.  

"A lot of people think my post is to complain about the virus. That's not it," Boblin said. "[A] lot of kids get it. It sucks, it's awful … but, I mean, it's common. It's just how the resort handled things that really bothered me."