Elma High School confirms outbreak of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

For the last two-plus years, the term “virus outbreak” has been commonplace in American society with COVID-19 dominating nearly every aspect of life during that period. While the pandemic has waned from the memory of most individuals, illness and outbreaks are still possible. That’s the case in one East County school.

The Elma School District confirmed Friday to The Daily World that Elma High School is dealing with an outbreak of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD). Not to be confused with Foot-and-Mouth Disease, which affects cows, sheep and pigs, HFMD is common in children under five years old, but anyone is susceptible to it. According to the CDC, the illness is usually not serious, but it is very contagious. It can spread quickly at schools and daycare centers.

Christopher Nesmith, superintendent of Elma School District, said the outbreak is mostly isolated within the high school varsity football team and that safety guidelines produced during the pandemic are in place to prevent further spread.

“They’re doing routine temperature testing each morning while they quarantine at home. At school, we’re sanitizing desks between class periods to curve a lot of the spread,” Nesmith said.

Nesmith, who said the outbreak caused the varsity football team to forfeit their Friday home game against Eatonville, couldn’t give an approximate number of how many students had contracted the illness but said he receives updates from the school nurses regularly about who is showing symptoms. He also didn’t know how the outbreak started.

The CDC states HFMD symptoms usually include fever, mouth sores and skin rash which is commonly located on the hands and feet. Symptoms usually last for seven to 10 days.

Nesmith said all students who have contracted the virus or will contract the virus can return to school after they have been quarantined for 10 days and when the sores on the hands and throat disappear.

“COVID-19 has had us rethink a lot of our protocols which is why we’ve been able to identify this so quickly. Parents have been much more visual when something is not right with their child’s health and not sending them to school when they’re sick,” Nesmith said.

Students quarantining at home will still be able to do their schoolwork remotely, according to Nesmith.