Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease @ JHU

Help stop the spread of Hand, Food, and Mouth disease!

We have seen some cases of Hand, Foot and Mouth disease here at the Student Health & Wellness Center. This contagious illness is caused by a virus and may result in fever, sore throat, sores in the mouth, and rashes on the hands and feet. While we are monitoring any new cases, there is something you can do!

You can lower your risk of being infected by doing the following:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after using the toilet.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and soiled items.
  • Avoid close contact such as kissing, hugging, or sharing eating utensils or cups with people with hand, foot, and mouth disease.

There is no specific treatment for hand, foot, and mouth disease. However, you can do some things to relieve symptoms:

  • Take over-the-counter medications to relieve pain and fever (Caution: Aspirin should not be given to children)
  • Use mouthwashes or sprays that numb mouth pain

If a person has mouth sores, it might be painful for them to swallow. However, it is important for people with hand, foot, and mouth disease to drink enough liquids to prevent dehydration (loss of body fluids). If a person cannot swallow enough liquids to avoid dehydration, they may need to receive them through an IV in their vein.

If you are concerned about your symptoms you should make an appointment to be seen at the Student Health & Wellness Center.

For more information, please visit the CDC’s website.

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Tracking

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Tracking Sheet
Please include your full given name.

Frequently Asked Questions

Adapted from UpToDate

What is Hand, foot, and mouth disease?

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is an infection caused by an enterovirus (usually coxsackievirus). It causes sores to form in the mouth, and on the hands & feet. This infection usually affects children, but adolescents & adults can get it too. Hand, foot, and mouth disease usually goes away on its own within 2 to 3 days. There are treatments to help with its symptoms.

What are the symptoms of Hand, foot, and mouth disease?

The main symptom is sores that form in the mouth, and on the hands & feet, and sometimes other areas of the body as well. They can look like small red spots, bumps, or blisters. The sores in the mouth can make swallowing painful. The sores on the hands and feet might be painful. The infection sometimes causes fever.

Students at Johns Hopkins seem to be developing a fever and sore throat initially. During this time, they may feel awful with muscle aches and pronounced fatigue. As the fever and fatigue begin to resolve, a rash may develop on their hands, feet and/or other body parts.

How does hand, foot, and mouth disease spread?

The virus that causes hand, foot, and mouth disease can travel in body fluids of an infected person. For example, the virus can be found in:

  • Mucus from the nose
  • Saliva
  • Fluid from one of the sores
  • Stool

People with hand, foot, and mouth disease are most likely to spread the infection during the first week of their illness, but the virus can live in their body for weeks or even months after the symptoms have gone away. The illness is usually transmitted by close contact with an infected person, or touching a surface that is contaminated with the virus.

What is the specific virus affecting JHU students?

We believe the virus affecting JHU students is Coxsackievirus A6. Since 2008, a novel coxsackievirus A6 genotype has been associated with more severe disease in both children and adults than generally occurs with typical hand, foot & mouth, including:

  • Higher fever
  • Wider distribution on the body – involvement of the arms, legs, face, lips, buttocks, groin, and genitals, the lesions can also be concentrated in areas of eczema
  • More extensive skin involvement is possible – large blisters, ulcerations, or scar formation
  • Longer duration of illness (mean duration 12 days)
  • Peeling of palms and soles after one to three weeks
  • Nail changes, or nails falling out after one to two months

Is there a test for hand, foot, and mouth disease?

A test exists, but is not commonly performed except in situations of severe illness or if the Department of Health deems it necessary. The clinician can diagnosis this illness by learning about symptoms and doing an exam.

How is hand, foot, and mouth disease treated?

The infection itself is not treated. It usually goes away on its own within a few days. You can take medication to help with the symptoms such as acetaminophen (sample brand name: Tylenol) or ibuprofen (sample brand names: Advil, Motrin) to relieve pain. The sores in the mouth can make swallowing painful, so it is important to make sure that people get enough fluids so that they don’t get dehydrated. Cold foods, like popsicles and ice cream, can help to numb the pain. Soft foods, like pudding and gelatin, might be easier to swallow.

Can hand, foot, and mouth disease be prevented?

The most important thing you can do to prevent the spread of this infection is to wash your hands often with soap and water. It’s also important to keep your living space clean and to disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. If you have hand, foot, and mouth disease, stay home from class if you have a fever or open sores. There is no vaccine for hand, foot & mouth disease.

When did we start to notice cases at Homewood?

The typical seasons for hand, foot & mouth disease are the summer & fall. We noticed a few cases at the end of August, which did not seem out of the ordinary. During the month of September, we started to see more frequent cases and began to monitor the situation carefully. The last case of HFMD was seen on November 1st and the Baltimore City Health Department has officially declared that the outbreak is over.

How many students are affected?

We cannot be sure of the number, since many students are likely staying home and not visiting the health center. We continue to see new cases on a daily basis.

What is being done?

The Student Health & Wellness Center is tracking cases carefully. We are working with Johns Hopkins Infection Control and the Baltimore City Health Department. We have e-mailed students, faculty & staff information on hand, foot & mouth disease. We are working with facilities to ensure extra cleaning in affected areas. We are giving students cold care packages, hand sanitizer, thermometers, and Tylenol & ibuprofen as needed. We are looking into supplying students with disinfectant wipes.

What can I do to help my student?

You can encourage them to stay home & rest when they are sick. You can make them a care package with a thermometer, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, Tylenol / ibuprofen, throat spray, and throat lozenges.