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Princeton, NJ: Nineteen Princeton University Students Diagnosed with Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease.

As of October 20, 2015, 19 students at Princeton University have been seen at the school’s health center for hand, foot and mouth disease, a school spokesman said.

“University Health Services staff have advised the students affected to take precautions to avoid the spread of the disease,” Princeton University Spokesman Martin Mbugua said. “Additionally, building services staff have been doing extra cleaning in common access areas in all residence halls.”

Hand, foot and mouth disease, a viral illness, can cause…

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Non-polio enteroviruses are very common viruses. They cause about 10 to 15 million infections in the United States each year. Tens of thousands of people are hospitalized each year for illnesses caused by enteroviruses.

Anyone can get infected with non-polio enteroviruses. But infants, children, and teenagers are more likely to get infected and become sick. That’s because they do not yet have immunity (protection) from previous exposures to the viruses.

Most people who get infected with non-polio enteroviruses do not get sick. Or, they may have mild illness, like the common cold. But some people can get very sick and have infection of their heart or brain or even become paralyzed. Infants and people with weakened immune systems have a greater chance of having these complications.

You can get infected with non-polio enteroviruses by having close contact with an infected person. You can also get infected by touching objects or surfaces that have the virus on them then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.

In the United States, people are more likely to get infected with non-polio enteroviruses in the summer and fall.

The Center for Disease Control states:

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a common viral illness that usually affects infants and children younger than 5 years old. However, it can sometimes occur in adults. It usually starts 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.

Some people, especially young children, may get dehydrated if they are not able to swallow enough liquids because of painful mouth sores.

Not everyone will get all of these symptoms. Some people, especially adults, may show no symptoms at all, but they can still pass the virus to others.

Causes

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is caused by viruses that belong to the Enterovirus genus (group), including polioviruses, coxsackieviruses, echoviruses, and enteroviruses.

  • Coxsackievirus A16 is the most common cause of hand, foot, and mouth disease in the United States, but other coxsackieviruses can also cause the illness.
  • Enterovirus 71 has also been associated with cases and outbreaks of hand, foot, and mouth disease.  Less often, enterovirus 71 has been associated with severe disease, such as encephalitis.

Transmission

The viruses that cause hand, foot, and mouth disease can be found in an infected person’s:

  • nose and throat secretions (such as saliva, sputum, or nasal mucus),
  • blister fluid, and
  • feces (stool).

An infected person may spread the viruses that cause hand, foot, and mouth disease to another person through:

  • close personal contact,
  • the air (through coughing or sneezing),
  • contact with feces,
  • contact with contaminated objects and surfaces.

For example, you might get infected by kissing someone who has hand, foot, and mouth disease or by touching a doorknob that has viruses on it then touching your eyes, mouth or nose.

It is possible to get infected with the viruses that cause hand, foot, and mouth disease if you swallow recreational water, such as water in swimming pools. However, this is not very common. This is more likely to happen if the water becomes contaminated with feces from a person who has hand, foot, and mouth disease and is not properly treated with chlorine.

Generally, a person with hand, foot, and mouth disease is most contagious during the first week of illness. People can sometimes be contagious for days or weeks after symptoms go away. Some people, especially adults, may not develop any symptoms, but they can still spread the virus to others. This is why people should always try to maintain good hygiene (e.g. handwashing) so they can minimize their chance of spreading or getting infections.

You should stay home while you are sick with hand, foot, and mouth disease. Talk with your healthcare provider if you are not sure when you should return to work or school. The same applies to children returning to daycare.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is not transmitted to or from pets or other animals.