Hand, foot and mouth disease


Graphic by Tyler Herron

On Wednesday, Sharon Schweitzer, assistant vice president for external relations, sent an email to the Trinity community regarding a recent outbreak of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD).

“Trinity Health Services and the University’s Athletic Trainer have identified eight cases of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) among students,” Schweitzer said in the email.

According to the CDC website, the disease normally affects infants and children under the age of 5. However, the disease can occasionally occur in adults.

According to the same website, symptoms “usually [start] with a fever, reduced appetite, sore throat and a feeling of being unwell (malaise). One or two days after the fever starts, painful sores can develop in the mouth (herpangina). They begin, often in the back of the mouth, as small red spots that blister and can become ulcers. A skin rash with red spots, and sometimes with blisters, may also develop over one or two days on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet; it may also appear on the knees, elbows, buttocks or genital area.”

The virus can be spread through person-to-person contact or through contact with contaminated surfaces. Schweitzer provided tips for reducing the spread of the disease in her email.

“To avoid the spread of the disease and reduce the risk of infection, thorough and frequent hand washing, especially after using the bathroom and before eating, is recommended. Further, it is recommended that you frequently clean or disinfect commonly touched surfaces in rooms, such as the sink, counter tops, toilet handles, faucet handles, door knobs, light switches and furniture surfaces, as well as laundering clothing and linens,” Schweitzer said.

The email also suggested that individuals should stay at home if they start showing symptoms.

“Students with HFMD should stay in their residence hall room or in off-campus housing as long as they have fever or rash. The virus may remain in the body for several weeks, so hygiene is critical in preventing the spread,” Schweitzer said.

For students concerned about missing so much class, Schweitzer suggested they contact their professors.

“If a student is diagnosed with HFMD, it is recommended that they contact their professors to see how they can keep up with course work until they recover,” Schweitzer said.

Jackie Bevilacqua, coordinator of Health Services, suggested students should come to health services if they feel sick and to treat HFMD as if it were like the common cold.

“If they do get sick, they should drink plenty of fluids, get plenty of rest, take over-the-counter pain medications for their discomfort and that’s really about it. This is a viral infection, not unlike a cold, it looks different than a cold because of the rash and the discomfort associated with the rash, but it is a viral infection. It is spread just the way a cold is spread,”  Bevilacqua said.

The email also addressed the steps Housekeeping Services will take to ensure that students are protected from getting infected.

“The university is taking proactive steps to help minimize the spread of HFMD to include increased housekeeping efforts to clean common surfaces frequently and has made hand-sanitizing stations available in common areas,” Schweitzer said.

Despite the low initial number of cases, the Crisis Management Team felt that the university should be made aware of the situation to keep more individuals from getting infected.

“Since it is a contagious virus that can be spread through coughing, sneezing, etc., the university chose to take the step of informing the community in an effort to reduce the risk of infection and provide information on how to avoid the spread of the virus. The crisis management team hopes this early communication might keep a low number of cases from turning into a high number of incidents,” Schweitzer said.