Around 100 cases of the viral, contagious infection known as Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease have arisen in students at the University of Connecticut’s Storrs campus since September, according to University spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz and Director of Nursing Tina McCarthy.
The symptoms of the infection include sores in the mouth, on hands and feet and the buttocks. The sores are often red blisters that are painful and tender, according to a flier recently posted about the virus on Student Health Services’s website.
“Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for viruses to spread quickly when large groups of people are living or studying together,” Reitz said in an email.
McCarthy said the outbreak is a rare sight in college-age individuals, given that the virus generally affects young children.
“It is something that is unusual to see in this setting,” McCarthy said in an email. “But is currently affecting this patch of the country on college campuses from Dartmouth [Hanover, New Hampshire] to Johns Hopkins [Baltimore, Maryland].”
Nick Cunningham, a first-semester computer science and engineering major, said he was diagnosed with the infection after feeling odd one night a few hours after he had fallen asleep.
“I woke up in the middle of the night with a very strange feeling—almost like I was on drugs,” Cunningham said. “I had a fever and eventually a sore throat. My parents picked me up and took me home.”
Cunningham said that he initially thought his symptoms represented the flu or a cold, but decided to visit Health Services after he began to develop painful blisters on his feet that made it difficult for him to walk.
“The nurse at Student Health Services told me, ‘Oh yeah, the person in front of you was experiencing the same thing, there’s something going around with it,’” Cunningham said. “She said, ‘You can go to your classes, though.’”
Cunningham said he thought there were a few issues with how the nurse handled his condition and the disclosure of the other patient’s symptoms.
“First of all, where’s the confidentiality?” Cunningham said. “And two, you’re not supposed to be going to classes with this type of sickness, it’s very contagious and difficult especially since I had a limp due to my feet being blistered up.”
There is no issue of confidentiality if a student’s identification isn’t included in a comment to another patient, McCarthy said.
Cunningham said that despite the advice given at Health Services, he attempted to avoid situations with other people to ensure he would not spread the virus to them.
“I tried to quarantine myself from my friends and not sit next to anyone in my classes,” Cunningham said. “But for something like this, that’s just not feasible.”
McCarthy said there are recommendations for students who contract the virus in order to help them feel better and keep the virus from spreading to their peers.
“Return to daily activities is based on how the student is feeling and has a wide range from mild symptoms to feeling pretty terrible,” McCarthy said. “There are additional limitations placed on food handlers and child care workers before they can return to work.”
McCarthy said personal hygiene and self-care are also important to keep students safe and help them avoid becoming infected.
“Practicing good hand hygiene, avoiding touching your eyes and nose, as well as disinfecting frequently touched surfaces are ways to help prevent the spread of this disease,” McCarthy said. “Getting plenty of rest, exercising appropriately, eating nutritious foods and drinking plenty of water and managing your stress are also helpful at any time of the year.”
Taylor Harton is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. They can be reached via email at email@example.com.