Hand, foot, mouth disease spreads at UI


Wenyuan Chen

Photo of the McKinley Health Center on 1109 S. Lincoln Ave. on April 17, 2016.

By Daily Illini Staff Report

University officials have reported more than 60 cases of hand, foot and mouth disease, a viral infection most commonly associated with children under five years old.

This disease is caused by virus’ of the Enterovirus variety, a non-polio strain of virus called Coxsackie A16.

“This is the first time significant numbers of cases of hand, foot and mouth disease have occurred on campus,” McKinley Health Center Director Dr. Robert Palinkas, said. “Cases among college age people are pretty rare.”

Martina Guerrero, junior in Engineering, is worried about the spread of this disease.

“Everyone is getting sick this time of year,” she said.

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Hand, foot and mouth disease can be spread through close physical contact, coughing, kissing, sneezing and contact with common surfaces. The symptoms usually begin three to seven days after the initial infection. It is also most common to see in the late summer and fall seasons.

“Early symptoms are fever, then rash and mouth ulcers follow,” Palinkas said. “Some patients have classic symptoms, but others may vary and some even have the disease without any symptoms at all.”

Students on campus agree that washing their hands more frequently is important and something they will take seriously. They wonder what else can be done.

“Other than (handwashing), I don’t think there’s much else one can do,” Brian Xu, freshman in Engineering, said.

Those with the disease are most contagious the first week of showing symptoms, but can also be contagious days after the symptoms disappear. Adults are less likely to show symptoms than children, but still transmit the virus, according to the Center for Disease Control.

“This year is the first time college campuses and high schools have significant numbers of cases,” Palinkas said. “I believe the large social nexus of a college campus plays a role, but there may be other yet undiscovered factors.”

However, according to the American College Health Association, cases occur with regularity on college campuses because of the amount of people compacted into a single space.

When asked if he would avoid places on campus like the libraries, bars, or the Illini Union, Michael Crawley, sophomore in LAS, laughed.

“I don’t think 9hand, foot and mouth disease0 has too much of a scare factor,” Crawley said. “The mumps came through (the University), and nothing really happened.”

The disease usually begins with a fever and is commonly followed by mouth sores and a skin rash. The rash, usually found on the palms of the hands and feet, can also develop on the knees, elbows, buttocks or genital area.

According to Healthline, the best way to provide at-home treatment and minimize the symptoms of this disease is by drinking cold beverages, eating sherbert and ice cream, and by avoiding citrus and spicy foods. In doing so, most people usually recover within a week without further problems, aside from some discomfort or pain in the mouth.

The body develops an internal strategy to combat the infection, Palinkas said.

“Infected individuals should avoid close contact with other people while contagious, and should not share eating utensils, shake hands or leave a mess in the bathroom,” Palinkas said. “Attendance at class, social events and other situations involving physical contact should be minimized or completely avoided.” Several students have not been taking Palinkas’ warning very seriously.

“I guess it doesn’t really faze me,” Xu said. “I have to go out at some point.”

Freshman in DGS, Kaitlyn Barnes, agrees with Xu.

“I’m not going to let this inhibit my life,” Barnes said.

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