Hand, foot and mouth disease hits UNF campus

Nearly 2 dozen FSU students infected by virus in mid-September

University of North Florida.
University of North Florida.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Officials at the University of North Florida have identified eight cases of hand, foot and mouth disease on campus, and anticipate even more cases.

“I would expect there are some people on campus who are not coming in [to Student Health Services],” UNF Nurse Practitioner Pat Richards told News4Jax Friday.  

Richards also said that she believes more cases will come through the office in the coming days.

“It will just continue to spread until it runs itself out or we get enough people washing their hands,” Richard said.

To let people know about the virus, UNF has posted signs around campus showing pictures of the disease and encouraging people to practice good hygiene and wash their hands frequently.

The contagious disease is a viral infection that causes blisters on the hands, feet and mouth, and occasionally the groin area. However, Richards said she’s mostly seen blisters on hands and feet in adults, not the mouth.

Other symptoms include fever, sore throat and loss of appetite.

After exposure, it takes about three to six days for symptoms to begin, which is what makes the disease so difficult to contain.

News4Jax reported earlier this month that Florida State University had its own outbreak. There were almost two dozen cases on campus as of Sept. 15. News4Jax reached out to FSU, and is waiting on updated numbers from officials.

FSU’s outbreak was thought to be hurricane-related, as it occurred around the time that Hurricane Hermine hit Tallahassee. 

“We think the hurricane and no electricity led to this in terms of humid, hot conditions, can’t do your laundry,” said Lesely Sacher, FSU's director of University Health Services. The initial outbreak led to the cancelation of fraternity and sorority rush events.

Richards said it’s hard to tell if the outbreak on UNF’s campus is connected to FSU’s, and that it could have just as easily come from a student with a child or some other “cluster” of people.

UNF health care providers are encouraging students to isolate themselves for a week, but considering that the outbreak is happening around midterm exams, Richards said she doesn’t know how many students will take that advice.