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Why Viruses Thrive on College Campuses

By: Rachael Rettner, Lead Writer
Posted: 09/16/2016 11:23 AM AM ]

More than a dozen students at Florida State University (FSU) are ill with foot and mouth disease, a disease commonly seen in young children. So why do college-age adults get the disease?

Viral illness can cause fever, painful mouth sores, and a skin rash on the hands and feet, depending on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It generally affects children under the age of 5.

But it's not surprising to see cases of the disease on a college campus, as it can sometimes affect adults, said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist and a senior associate at the Medical Center's Health Safety Center. from the University of Pittsburgh.

"Some people can escape the infection as children, and contract it later in age," Adalja said. [9 Ways Going to College Affects Your Health]

In addition, several viruses that belong to a group called enteroviruses can cause the disease. Therefore, it is possible that some people who were infected as children have immunity to only one type of virus, but not another type, leaving them susceptible to a second infection, Adalja said.

What is it? Also, the virus is highly contagious, and the tight spaces in a college dorm can magnify the outbreak, meaning there will be more cases than there would be in other settings, Adalja said.

"People are definitely exposed to each other more intensely" in college dorms, where they share close living spaces, Adalja said.

If the virus reaches a large college campus, it may only be a matter of time before more people become infected. "This class of virus is highly contagious and if it finds the right person, it will cause [illness]," said Adalja.

FSU workers are now disinfecting the affected students' dormitories, as well as public spaces on campus, according to a statement from the university. But officials also advised all students living in the school's housing or in the fraternity and sorority houses to "disinfect their residences thoroughly and install bottles of hand sanitizer in each residence," the statement said.

There is no specific treatment for the disease, but people who are ill generally get better within a few days, FSU said.

To prevent the spread of the disease, the CDC recommends washing hands often, cleaning frequently touched surfaces, and avoiding close contact with people who have FMD.

Original article on Live Science .

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