Hands, Feet, and Mouths Ravaged by Coxsackie
Reed’s Health and Counseling Center issued an advisory last week that there had been an outbreak of hand, foot, and mouth disease among the student body. While uncommon among people older than preschool and nursery age, hand, foot, and mouth is a highly contagious disease that, once acquired by an adult individual, spreads easily among concentrated populations, putting educational environments such as Reed at extremely high risk for mass infections. The school has taken a variety of measures to ensure that Coxsackie A, which is the viral cause of hand, foot, and mouth, will not be able to survive and spread in our now-vulnerable community.
The first and most obvious measure dealt with awareness of the disease and its methods of transmission. In its advisory, the Health and Counseling office informed Reedies of the various methods by which hand, foot, and mouth could be transmitted, including saliva and bodily contact, which are the most prevalent forms of infection for most individuals. Other preventative methods against hand, foot, and mouth, however, were more specific. In Prexy, notifications were placed on all instruments instructing musicians to sanitize both their hands and instruments before and after playing, and in Commons, some foods were wrapped in plastic to prevent spread of the disease by touch. Alcoholic hand sanitizer was also placed at various high-exposure points around the school as part of a holistic effort throughout the community to minimize contact infections.
Despite these measures, Health and Counseling continued to receive students who had reported the symptoms typical of hand, foot, and mouth disease. It is not known, due to patient confidentiality, where the disease originated on campus, but the outbreak, which can be spread by anybody who has come into contact with the virus, is now beyond any single focal point. Students reported a variety of symptoms typical of the disease, but most common were complaints of nausea and fever, as well as the spot-like rashes for which hand, foot, and mouth disease is named. Since there is no known cure for hand, foot, and mouth, anyone with a diagnosis is being instructed simply to take simple pain relievers until the virus, which usually lasts a week, exhausts itself and dies off.
Given the short incubational period of Coxsackie virus, it is hoped that the virus outbreak will not last long at Reed, especially with the concerted institutional effort to prevent the disease. However, since Reed has instructed students to continue attending classes even while they are infected with the disease, there is active debate concerning whether more can be done to prevent further spread of hand, foot, and mouth. The disease is mild by modern standards, however, and it is likely that the outbreak of hand, foot, and mouth disease on Reed campus will be a temporary one, and that the student body will return to full health within the semester.