Doctors across the country are issuing warnings about potential outbreaks of Hand, Foot and Mouth disease (HFMD) this season.
HFMD is a viral disease that most often affects young children, although adults are not invulnerable to it. The West Central Health District in Columbus, Georgia, released a statement describing the illness as mostly non-serious.
"The illness is typically mild, and nearly all people recover in seven to 10 days without medical treatment," the statement said, according to WTVM. "HFMD is caused by several different viruses and it’s possible that people can get the disease again. In rare cases, further complications can occur."
The most common symptoms include fever, reduced appetite, sore throat, sores in the mouth and red spots on the hands and feet. Furthermore, children can become dehydrated, as the mouth sores make it difficult to swallow liquids.
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HFMD is highly contagious. There's no vaccine to protect against it, although there are a number of steps you can take to reduce your risk of contracting the virus. These include washing your hands with soap and water regularly; avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth; avoiding close contact with people who show signs of the disease; and regularly cleaning surfaces that several people touch, like doorknobs.
"These actions will minimize your chance of getting and spreading infections," the West Central Health District continued. "If you or your child has HFMD or similar symptoms you should try to refrain from attending work, school or any large congregate settings."
Breakouts of HFMD have been observed on several college campuses recently. Students at the University of North Carolina were caught off guard when the illness started spreading around their dorms.
"I've had a number of suitemates who have had symptoms of Hand, Foot and Mouth," sophomore Morgan Alderman told the Daily Tarheel. "A few of them seemed pretty sick for a week or so. Some had bumps in their mouths and we told them to go get it checked out."
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"We were actually kind of relieved when we found out it was Hand, Foot and Mouth because we thought it might've been something much worse," she added.
Dr. Thevy Chai, who works as a physician for Campus Health Services, said that in a college setting, the risk of a full-blown outbreak is low, since many students already had the disease as children and have since built up an immunity to it.
"For the college-aged population, as long as you don’t have a fever or fluid-filled vesicles, you can go interact with other [people], as long as you’re staying hydrated, doing anything you need to for your cough or other symptoms and of course practicing good hygiene," Chai explained.