BERKELEY (KRON) — It is a painful disease that normally affects children, but in recent months, it has popped up at U.S. universities throughout the country.
It is called hand, foot, and mouth disease, and two Florida universities and the University of Illinois have reported up to three dozen cases in the last couple of months.
8News affiliate KRON4 spoke with an infectious disease expert at UC Berkeley who says he is not surprised.
Hand, foot, and mouth disease looks like this–blisters so painful you can’t walk or pick up anything. It also can come with a fever.
According to the National Institutes of Health, about 200,000 people in the U.S. get the disease each year, but Dr. Fenyong Liu, an infectious disease expert at UC Berkeley, says a lot more than that carry the viruses associated with the disease.
“This represents a silent epidemic because people don’t know they have the virus, and we don’t know these people have the virus,” Dr. Liu said.
Doctors say the disease is highly contagious, making daycare centers, and now colleges, ideal breeding grounds.
“This fecal or oral transmission is really an issue when you have a dining hall and [people sharing] the dorm,” Dr. Liu said.
KRON4 talked to students at UC Berkeley, and most hadn’t even heard of the disease.
“I feel like it’s just a little scary because looking at the picture, I feel like if I saw that on my hand, I would just think maybe I had a bug bite or two or a little allergic reaction or something,” student Andrew Pastor said. “I wouldn’t think to particularly stay away from other people.”
“Luckily, I don’t live in the dorms, so that feels like it will help me, but I do, even if you don’t live in the dorms, you live with, around other people,” student Savannah Ray said.
The disease is caused by a virus, so one key way to protect yourself is to wash your hands regularly.