High schools in five counties have reported cases of hand, foot and mouth disease, or Coxsackie virus, as of Saturday, the state health department said, though it’s not clear if all of the reported illnesses are actually Coxsackie virus, or if other viruses are involved.
The state Health Department has asked schools to report to their local health departments any cases of individuals with a blister-like rash on their hands, feet or mouth, said Donna Leusner, the spokeswoman.
The five counties where reports have been made of cases are Bergen, Morris, Sussex, Hunterdon and Ocean, according to the state health department. Cases previously had been reported at a half dozen high schools, a middle school and an elementary school. The Bergen case was reported at Don Bosco in Ramsey.
After-school programs ranging from high school football games to a presentation on college financial aid have been canceled.
State health officials do not recommend excluding anyone from school or sports who does not have symptoms. Of those who have been ill, only those who have been fever-free without fever-reducing medication for 24 hours should return to school or sports.
The disease is characterized by a rash that can be flat or bumpy, and may produce blisters on the hands and soles of the feet, the health department said. The rash may also appear on the knees and elbows. It is accompanied by fever, sore throat and runny nose.
Complications are rare. People are most contagious during the first week of the illness.
To prevent the spread of the virus, public health officials recommend:
- Frequent hand-washing;
- Frequent cleaning of surfaces touched by many people, such as doorknobs, sports equipment, countertops and keyboards;
- Avoiding close contact, such as hugging or kissing, with an infected person, and not sharing water bottles or eating utensils with them.
- Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the inner elbow.