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Florida State University Hit With At Least 22 Cases of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

Florida State University is trying to contain an on-campus outbreak of an illness typically seen at day care.

A university official told NBC News that as of Friday afternoon, there have been 22 total cases of hand, foot and mouth disease — a highly contagious virus in which sores develop in the mouth, and a skin rash with blisters appears on the hands and soles of the feet.

"I'm thinking we've got probably one more little spike [in cases], then hopefully it will have worn itself out," said Lesley Sacher, executive director of university health services at the Tallahassee school.

Parents help move their students out at the end of the semester on the campus of Florida State University in Tallahassee in 2015. Mark Wallheiser / AP file

The illness starts with a fever and sore throat, followed by painful mouth sores a day or two later, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some people don't get symptoms but are still contagious.

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It's most often seen among infants and toddlers at day care centers who have a lot of direct skin contact as they play, but it's not unheard of in adults.

And it's easy for any infection to spread quickly in college dorms, particularly this time of year as students adjust to life in a dorm surrounded by others in close proximity, said Dr. Frank Esper, pediatric disease specialist at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland.

"We see spikes in certain types of infections during that transition period. It's one of the reasons we have a meningitis shot that is specifically targeting individuals going into dormitories," he said.

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FSU has been scrubbing down its dorms and classrooms, Sacher said, and distributing hand sanitizer. It also asked a fraternity to postpone Greek rush so the houses could be cleaned first.

"Sanitation is the one thing that will kill this, with a solution of water and bleach," Sacher said.

Hand, foot and mouth is caused by Coxsackie A16 virus, a member of the enteroviruses family. Enteroviruses tend to thrive in the fall, but Esper said they can happen any time of the year.

There's no medicine to treat hand, foot and mouth, and those with it are advised to rest, take fever reducers, use mouthwashes that numb mouth pain, and stay hydrated while the disease runs its course — usually about three to five days.