Outbreak of viral disease hits campus

At least 30 cases of hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD), a viral illness, have occurred on campus since September, according to MIT Medical.

Most, but not all, of the reported cases have been from students residing in Delta Psi, a co-ed fraternity on Memorial Drive, East Campus (EC), and Maseeh Hall, Shawn Ferullo, chief of student health, wrote in an email to The Tech.

Ferullo is also “sure there are more” than just 30 cases, the approximate number of students who have sought treatment for HFMD with MIT Medical or MIT MedLinks. “HFMD does not cause a severe illness, so most affected students do not seek medical attention,” he wrote.

Typical symptoms of HFMD include fever, tiredness, sore throat, and its namesake — rashes on the hands, rashes on the feet, and mouth sores, which usually dissipate in about a week.

HFMD is contagious; it can be transmitted “through direct contact, through bodily fluids, and across surfaces that have been in touch with the virus,” according to an email written by an EC resident quoting EC MedLinks that was forwarded to The Tech. Preventative steps include frequent hand-washing, avoiding close contact with those with HFMD, and avoid communal ware.

For treatment options, Ferullo recommended acetaminophen or ibuprofen for a fever and salt-water gargles or lozenges for a sore throat. Additional “lifestyle and home remedies” to relieve pain listed by the Mayo Clinic were also referenced in the EC MedLinks email.

“[HFMD] is similar to other common viruses and is mostly annoying, self-limited, and resolves on its own with time,” Ferullo wrote. “Like most illnesses, rest and hydration are key.”

The present HFMD outbreak is not limited to MIT.

The Harvard Crimson reported “isolated cases” of HFMD on Harvard’s campus on Sept. 12, in what was characterized as “the latest unconventional ailment to hit campus in recent years,” following a mumps outbreak in the spring of 2016.

The first case of HFMD at MIT was reported five days later, according to Ferullo.

Beyond Cambridge, Ferullo continued, clinicians have also “anecdotally” been “learning of cases across the greater Boston area that have nothing to do with MIT.”

HFMD is most common in infants and children under the age of five, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, making the current outbreak somewhat unusual.

“This could be due to a new or slightly different strain being present in the region,” Ferullo said.