Eight cases of hand, foot and mouth disease confirmed on campus

Nick Blank

Photo by Jack Drain
Photo by Jack Drain

The number of student hand, foot and mouth disease cases rose from the three reported last week to eight, UNF health officials said.

“When we identified four in one day, that was just out of the ordinary,” former UNF Student Health Services Director Doreen Perez said. “We identified it with the health department and they’re going to see if they can find a cluster.”

According to The Center for Disease Control, hand, foot and mouth disease can spread in many different forms. It’s passed through a viral cough or lesions that form on the subject‘s blisters on their hands, feet or mouth, and there is a week-long delay before the symptoms occur.

The symptoms of the virus — which typically last a few days to a week– include sore throat, fever, a rash and lesion on the hands, mouth and feet.

To prevent the spread of hand, foot and mouth disease, Perez said students should wash their hands and practice good hygiene. To increase awareness, UNF Student Health Services placed posters in bathrooms, hallways and they included a link to more information on Mywings.

Since the virus won’t respond to antibiotic treatment, Perez said Student Health Services can help students with painful mouth blisters by applying a paste that soothes the lesions.

Perez said the outbreak was unusual for college students, and more common in places like preschools– clusters where children congregate, but UNF isn’t the only campus experiencing outbreaks of it.

In early September, Florida State made national headlines with 15 cases of the illness. The number of cases stands at 56 as of Oct. 4.

“If you look at the rates from Sept. 12 to Sept. 30, [hand, foot and mouth disease] has been growing pretty steady in the two weeks we’ve been monitoring it,” said Dr. Christopher DeLisle, a medical director at FSU’s Student Health Services.

Students can contract the illness from commonly-used surfaces like door handles, sinks and keyboards. DeLisle said students shouldn’t share drinks or shake hands, especially after using the bathroom.

Perez encouraged UNF students to stay ahead of the virus. “Start telling everybody to wash their hands, use hand sanitizer and I think it should be okay,” she said.

Because the disease is not reportable to the Duval and Leon county health departments, health officials at both universities have trouble estimating the amount of students who received treatment off-campus.

Duval County officials are assisting the university in pinpointing the spread of the virus to places where students gather, like a dorm or bar. As of last Friday, officials hadn’t found a specific location.

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