Population Health lessons from an outbreak at Florida State University

PHS 795 student Kerry Zimdars writes:

This article is about an outbreak of Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease that was just identified on the Florida State University campus. It’s a bit unique as this is an infection seen more often in children. However, the recent environmental condition changes caused by the hurricane may help explain why we are now seeing this outbreak amongst a less common demographic. Not only is the physical environment involved but also the social environment–for example, people being crowded together at home making transmission easier. It ties into our discussion of the interacting and complex nature of the determinants and factors of health.

Hand, foot and mouth outbreak strikes Florida university

So, here’s a question for you all. Given what we have learned about the importance of interactions between individual and environmental factors, what kind of interventions should FSU consider to get this under control? How might other schools have plans in place to prevent outbreaks?

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One thought on “Population Health lessons from an outbreak at Florida State University

  1. What kind of interventions should FSU consider to get this under control? How might other schools have plans in place to prevent outbreaks?

    To develop control measures, it is important to understand the transmission means, the symptoms, and conducive environments. According to Lesley Sacher, Director of University Health Services at Florida State University, “The week before, we had the hurricane, so we’re thinking days without electricity, hot, humid conditions make germs very happy.” The intestinal virus has high person-to-person infectivity (coughing, contaminated surfaces, sneezing, person-to-person contact, etc.) and causes a number of discomfort symptoms (nausea, fever, rash).

    Currently, there is not an established antiviral for hand Foot Mouth (HFM) disease, so preventing further transmission and relieving the severity of symptoms is the best means of containment. For prevention, canceling high population events (the University cancelled fraternity rush week) could control outbreaks as the disease often exists subclinically while still being transmissible before symptoms arise. Further, providing mouth masks, hand sanitizer, and gloves, especially for food workers could reduce the transmission rate.

    To address environmental concerns, measures to reduce humidity in buildings could prove to be beneficial. Placing industrial fans and de-humidifiers in high-contact areas (gymnasiums, cafeterias, common areas) could reduce the presence of the virus.

    Other universities should view this as a case study to encourage HFM prevention measures. While conditions might not be conducive of HFM (colder weather, lower campus density, isolated campus), universities should implement public education means and continue to provide hand sanitizer and masks when and where possible.

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