Outbreak of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease sweeps through the school

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This fall, an outbreak of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease made its way through the school. Hand Foot and Mouth Disease, also known as HFMD, is a highly contagious viral infection usually found in infants and small children. Though it rarely causes major complications, it comes with a handful of unpleasant symptoms. The illness typically begins with a fever, headache and sore throat, followed by painful welts one to two days after the initial symptoms. The blisters cover the hands, feet, and face.

One student who had the illness described their experience. “It all started one night, I was feeling kind of funny and gross. That morning I woke up and I was feeling terrible, but it was PSAT day and I couldn’t just skip school. I had a headache, I had chills, my throat was starting to hurt terribly. I was sick the next day, and it wasn’t until the third day that I got the bumps on my hand.”

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “ [HFMD] usually affects infants and children younger than five years old. However, it can sometimes occur in older children and adults.” This is because most older people have been exposed to the virus throughout their life and built up an immunity.

The disease is highly contagious and spreads through contact with bodily fluids such as saliva, feces and fluid from blisters. People may also develop the ailment from contact with contaminated surfaces such as door handles and countertops. It is possible to contract HFMD with little to no symptoms and pass it on to a new host.

The outbreak began around early October and continued through the month. The illness spread throughout the school but was concentrated in specific populations such as the crew and cross country teams. This likely occurred due to close contact during sports.

Due to the nature of the outbreak, administration and the facilities department made an effort to restrict the spread of the sickness. Principal Colleen Weiner described the school’s strategy to prevent further cases: “When we first found out that there were a couple of cases of it, the custodians actually came in over the weekend and did a thorough sanitation and a deeper cleaning of the facilities and locker rooms out by the stadium. Then I sent out a couple of emails with an attachment from the CDC.“

Many students at the school who had the sickness received scrutiny from their classmates for having Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. One student said, “I got bullied about it, and I felt bad about it. You know I felt like I was so disgusting for having it, but at some point I just stopped caring about it.”

Another student described how they were affected by the stigma around HFMD, saying, “It kind of hurt me. It just got annoying after a while.”

The school was not unique in this year’s outbreak of HFMD. Platt High School in Meriden and Wesleyan University had similar waves of the illness. An article from the Wesleyan Argus, the school’s newspaper, explains the situation there: “The highly contagious nature of HFMD has enabled the illness to spread around campus, infecting 15 students to date.”

An announcement from Eyewitness News confirms that the disease is present at Platt. “According to the school, there are five cases of the disease.”

Eyewitness News and CBS report that there has been a recent surge in the disease in several states including Connecticut: “Several states are seeing a flare up in hand, foot and mouth disease…One office has said the virus is ’rampant’ right now, and some pediatricians are seeing up to three to four cases a day.”

Although it has seemed to have died down now, as the weather gets colder keep in mind that, according to the Mayo Clinic, the best way to prevent the disease is to wash your hands, disinfect contaminated surfaces, and stay away from infected individuals.

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