Preventing Hand Foot and Mouth Disease
Six students have sought treatment at University Health Services this month for Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD), a common, mild viral disease that is easily spread. HFMD usually affects infants and children under 5 years old, but can affect adults.
The virus that causes HFMD is found in the infected person’s nose and throat, fluid within blisters, and feces. The virus can spread through:
- close personal contact (kissing, sharing saliva),
- droplets formed from coughing or sneezing,
- contact with feces, and
- touching infected surfaces (It survives on surfaces for several hours; touching a doorknob with viruses on it and then touching your eye, mouth, or nose can spread the disease.).
How to prevent infection
The most effective way to prevent HFMD is to wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water. Avoid close contact with individuals sick with HFMD and clean contaminated surfaces with a bleach-based cleaner or one containing alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride.
Symptoms usually start with a fever, reduced appetite, sore throat and a feeling of being unwell. One or two days after the fever starts, individuals may develop painful sores in the mouth and/or a skin rash with red spots or blisters on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. The rash sometimes appears on knees, elbows, buttocks and genital area. Some people, especially adults, may show no symptoms at all, but they can pass the virus on to others.
Symptoms generally clear up within a few days. In very rare cases, symptoms can be severe and require hospitalization.
There is no specific treatment for HFMD, other than over-the-counter medications to relieve pain and fever and use of mouthwashes that numb mouth pain.
What to do if you experience symptoms
Students with symptoms should call University Health Services at 609-258-3141. Employees should consult with their primary care provider.