The Maryland Department of Health has declared an outbreak of the viral infection, hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) on the Johns Hopkins University’s Homewood campus after scores of cases have been reported since September.

Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) Image/shawn c
Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD)
Image/shawn c

The Wall Street Journal reports that 125 cases have been reported to date, up from 95 the week prior.

Roanna Kessler, director of the Homewood Student Health and Wellness Center, sent a message to students, faculty, and staff last week noting that the health center continues to see new cases of the illness on campus. Her message included the following tips on how to prevent further spread of the virus:

  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is symptomatic
  • Avoid sharing cups, dishes, and utensils with anyone, regardless of whether they have symptoms or not
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water

Students who have been diagnosed with hand, foot, and mouth disease should:

  • Limit exposure to other people, common areas, items, and surfaces immediately after symptoms begin and for up to seven days after the blister/rash appears
  • Frequently disinfect commonly-touched items and surfaces
  • Avoid going to events, parties, bars, or areas where there will be a large gathering of people

HFMD is typically a benign and self-limiting disease. Most common in young children, it presents as fever, oral lesions and rash on the hands, feet and buttocks. The oral lesions consist of rapidly-ulcerating vesicles on the buccal mucosa, tongue, palate and gums. The rash consists of papulovesicular lesions on the palms, fingers and soles, which generally persist for seven to 10 days, and maculopapular lesions on the buttocks.

It is spread to others by close personal contact, coughing or sneezing or by contact with contaminated objects and surfaces. It can be difficult to eradicate in schools, group living communities and daycares. Although it is not serious for most people, the infection can cause significant pain while eating, walking and writing.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is caused by viruses that belong to the Enterovirus genus (group). This group of viruses includes polioviruses, coxsackieviruses, echoviruses, and enteroviruses. Coxsackievirus is the most common cause of HFMD.