Capital Region Schools Deal With Coxsackievirus Outbreak

Sep 24, 2018

Five schools in the greater Capital Region have reported cases of "hand, foot and mouth" disease, also known as Coxsackievirus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Coxsackieviruses are part of the same family of viruses that cause polio and hepatitis A and live in the human digestive tract.

Dr. Alan Sanders is chief medical officer for St. Peter's Health Partners:  "So there's really no prevention of Coxsackievirus, it's out there every year, more commonly in the late summer, early fall. It's easily transmitted person to person so obviously if someone has been diagnosed with it, it's obvious, oftentimes it begins with a rash on their feet, on their hands and small lesions in their mouth."

It usually affects children under the age of five. But adults can also contract it, as evidenced by a number of cases among Major League Baseball players this year. Sanders says it usually doesn't pose any major health threat.  "It can lead, on rare occasions, to a little more profound issues with inflammation around the heart. It could be a little bit more concerned for even a form of non-bacterial or what we call a viral meningitis that's usually completely asymptomatic after a couple of days. And importantly, there's no anti-viral medicine to give for this virus, so it can really cause havoc on people for a number of days, but you can't really do anything to A, prevent it or B treat it, it has to run its natural course," Sanders said.

Health officials on Long Island reported a slew of cases in late July and early August, and it appears the virus has moved upstate. It first showed up in Montgomery County at Fonda-Fultonville Central School District, then appeared at Broadalbin-Perth Central School District and Greater Amsterdam School District.

Officials took precautions by canceling a scheduled Friday night football game between last week Amsterdam High and Broadalbin-Perth High. The Cohoes School District and Gloversville Enlarged School District were the latest to report the presence of the virus among students late last week.

Cohoes District spokesman Aaron Cagwin spoke with WAMC Monday.   "Last week we had four confirmed cases of the Coxsackie Virus at one of our elementary schools, that's Abraham Lansing Elementary. And I just spoke to our principal, and we have had one additional confirmed case since then, so it's up to five. We're just letting all of our parents know what the symptoms are, and that if their children experience any of those symptoms to contact their doctor. And our custodial staff are taking extra measures to make sure that all common areas and classrooms are being thoroughly cleaned."

The CDC says the highly contagious virus spreads most commonly via unwashed hands and has been known to spread quickly in a group setting like an athletic team. Antibiotics have no effect. In the majority of cases, symptoms disappear after 7-10 days.