A disease that usually affects infants and toddlers has struck young adults in high schools and even colleges across the country in recent weeks.
Dozens of students from Burlington, Vermont, to Tallahassee, Florida, have been diagnosed with hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD), prompting school officials to cancel football games and other events.
HFMD is a viral infection that causes sores in or on the mouth and on the hands, feet, and sometimes on the buttocks and legs. The sores can be painful and there is no treatment for the virus, which spreads easily through coughing and sneezing and usually lasts for about a week. The disease is most common in the summer and fall.
A potential outbreak of HFMD struck a high school football team in La Porte, Indiana, in August with one confirmed case and a handful of other possible cases.
LaPorte Schools Superintendent Mark Francesconi said the football team’s locker room at Kiwanis Field a few blocks from the high school has been thoroughly cleaned as a precaution.
Parents of team members have also been advised to clean their children’s clothing and watch for any symptoms that might develop.
In recent days, an outbreak of the disease hit Burlington, Vermont, where a local high school had to cancel a football game that was scheduled for last Friday.
As of Thursday evening, more than half of the Falcons’ football team was displaying symptoms, he said. North Country also cancelled the boys and girls soccer games which were to be played on Friday.
Beginning around 2 p.m. Thursday, several football players arrived at the nurse’s office with symptoms of the disease — flu-like symptoms, throat pain, red spots on their hands. Six players were confirmed cases, while 20 or 21 “could go either way,” Dinzeo said.
Next page: Find out which other schools are experiencing outbreaks of HFMD.
An outbreak struck a group of students in Pequannock, New Jersey, in recent weeks as well, forcing the high school to postpone its season-opening football game.
District officials say three Pequannock High School players became ill in late August.
The school’s fields and locker rooms were sanitized Aug. 31 and again Friday. But officials learned last weekend that five more players had the illness and three others were showing symptoms.
Students in Kinnelon, New Jersey, have also been afflicted with HFMD, forcing the high school to postpone its boys and girls soccer games this week.
The girls team was set to travel to Whippany Park on Thursday and the boys team was scheduled to host the Wildcats, but both games have been pushed back, according to a release from Superintendent Diane DiGiuseppe. The release stated that there were two confirmed cases of the disease at the high school and after consultation with the school doctor, multiple athletic events were postponed this week.
“We are aware of more than a dozen cases so far,” said Lesley Sacher, director of the FSU Health and Wellness Center in a university release.
HFMD also hit Florida State University student living quarters this week, prompting university officials to cancel several events Tuesday night. “We are aware of more than a dozen cases so far,” said Lesley Sacher, director of the FSU Health and Wellness Center, in a university release.
FSU crews are wiping down affected dormitories with bleach and enacting “sanitation protocols for all public spaces on campus,” officials said. All living areas — dorms, fraternity and sorority houses, and others — have been advised to disinfect and provide bottles of hand sanitizers if they don’t already have them.
The unusual illness is also spreading at CU Boulder right now with the several cases diagnosed in the past week.
In March of 2012, the CDC reported the emergence of a new strain of the enterovirus in the U.S. responsible for hand, foot and mouth disease. According to investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson, “the patients’ age range and the severity of the illness were considered unusual in the U.S. and resulted in a more severe and extensive rash.”