To use hand sanitizer or not; 2 reported cases of students with hand, foot and mouth disease last month prompt action, discussion over use of germ-fighting agents in classrooms
Wearing a face mask and using hand sanitizer, The Accolade news editor senior Camryn Pak demonstrates some of the germ-fighting options students have on campus to deal with the potential spread of hand, foot and mouth disease and other illnesses, such as the flu. (Photo by Accolade Web Managing Editor Tiffany Lee)

With summer ending and the flu season approaching, Sunny Hills students are trying to be more proactive about staying healthy.

“Everyone gets sick during this time of year so I’m gonna be careful when it comes to things like sharing my water bottle,” said freshman Samantha Perez, who also makes sure to stay healthy by using hand sanitizer before eating.

School and district officials have also seen the importance of keeping the campus as germ- and virus-free as possible, especially in light of reports last month that two students had contracted a contagious yet mild virus known as hand, foot and mouth disease [HFMD].

This email was sent Sept. 11 to Sunny Hills parents and students informing them about the reported case of students contracting the “Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease (HFMD), which is caused by a virus.” The explanation also mentions what district officials plan to do about disinfecting the campus of germs that could cause the virus to spread.

Early symptoms of the illness include fever, sore throat, irritability, blisters, rashes and ulcers on the hands, feet and legs, which are unpleasant but not serious, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC].

Anyone can be infected, seeing as the virus spreads through direct and indirect contact, according to the CDC. But children under the age of 10 are more likely to catch it.

According to the Mayo Clinic, to prevent HFMD, it is important to avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth because it spreads through contact with a contaminated person or object. Once someone becomes sick, it takes anywhere from two to 14 days for the virus to pass and the blisters to clear up.

Administrators sent an email to students and their parents on Sept. 11 informing them about the two reported cases of HFMD at school and how students may have been exposed.

“This is a notification to respectfully inform you that your son/daughter may have been exposed [to HFMD],” stated the email. “As a precaution, the District has provided a special extra-cleaning crew to disinfect the classrooms.”

Then on Sept. 12, the disinfectant crew arrived to the campus after school.

“We disinfected the campus two times with a fog machine, and a whole crew of people came in after hours to do it,” principal Allen Whitten said.

Though the email stated two students were reported to have contracted the illness, Whitten said he was unaware of their names. Though no other reports have surfaced of other students contracting HFMD, students’ reactions about contracting it have been mixed.

“I honestly wasn’t worried about the virus, considering that my nieces contracted it over the summer, so I had already been practicing great preventative habits [such as] washing hands and using sanitizer,” senior Mark Ortega said.

Sophomore Kyle Lee agreed, adding, “The disease sounds painful because of the sores, but I’m not worried.”

Nevertheless, some students prefer to remain cautious and to take preventive measures.

“When people were talking about the virus going around, I made sure to use hand sanitizer more often and to wash my hands even more than usual,” junior Elyse Angelus said.

With the disease now gone, the CDC suggests staying healthy and keeping the school clean.

“At this time, we are happy to report that no more cases of any virus have been reported,” Whitten said last month.

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