Dear Georgia Southern Students, Parents, Faculty & Staff,
I want to take this opportunity to inform you via the information below of health-related issues across the state, nation, and internationally, that we are continuing to monitor. Thank you for taking the time to consider the information below. I will send out updates on these and other issues as they become available. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of any assistance.
Brian M. DeLoach, M.D.
Over the month of January 2019, there have been increasing reports of measles cases in the Washington state area. Additionally, two cases were identified in the Atlanta area. While no cases have been identified in southeast Georgia, Health Services continues to monitor the measles situation very closely. Measles is a highly contagious virus that is spread by saliva and respiratory droplets. The illness is characterized by fever, rash, runny nose and red eyes. While most healthy individuals will recover, measles can cause very serious complications, and about 1 out of every 4 cases is hospitalized. Persons at highest risk of serious illness include infants and children under 5 years old, adults over 20 years old, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems, such as from leukemia, HIV or immunosuppressing drugs. Measles vaccine is available and is highly effective at preventing measles. Although measles vaccination is a required childhood vaccine, and it is also required for enrollment at Georgia Southern and other Georgia Board of Regents universities and colleges, some students may not be vaccinated due to various specific exemptions. Despite these exemptions, Health Services strongly recommends that any student, faculty or staff who is not vaccinated or who is unable to show proof of immunity be vaccinated immediately. Measles vaccine is available in the student health centers on both the Statesboro and Armstrong campuses. Other important steps to reduce measles transmission include coughing into your sleeve or elbow, washing your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol based hand sanitizer, keeping your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth, and staying away from others when sick. For more information about measles, see https://www.cdc.gov/measles/index.html
Acute Flaccid Myelitis
What is AFM? Nationwide, there has been an increase in reported cases of Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM) since August 2018. AFM is a rare but serious condition affecting the nervous system, specifically the spinal cord, causing weakness in one or more limbs. Symptoms can include acute onset of facial droop/weakness, drooping eyelids, difficulty moving the eyes, and difficulty swallowing or slurred speech. Rarely, AFM can cause numbness or tingling in the arms or legs, and difficulty passing urine. Some patients might have difficulty breathing due to muscle weakness and need ventilator support.
Who gets AFM? Most reported cases in the US have been in children, but AFM may affect any age group. From January 1 through November 7, 2018, three confirmed AFM cases have been identified in Georgia along with one probable case, and three other cases are currently pending clinical review.
What causes AFM? There is no known single cause of AFM. The condition can be caused by a variety of germs (including viruses), environmental factors and genetics. In some cases, the cause may not be identified.
How is AFM treated? There are no specific treatments recommendations for AFM. Cases typically are referred to neurologists and other specialists who treat diseases affecting the brain and spinal cord.
How can AFM be prevented? There is no single, specific cause of AFM. However, since AFM can develop as a result of a viral infection, taking basic steps to avoid infections and to stay healthy are recommended, including:
- Wash your hands frequently
- Cover your cough or sneeze with your elbow or a disposable tissue
- Stay at home if you are sick
- Stay up to date on all required and recommended vaccinations
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites if you are spending time outside
What should you do if you think you have AFM? If you develop potential symptoms, you should contact your health care provider as soon as possible so that a proper evaluation can be performed.
Where can I learn more about AFM?
– Visit the Georgia Department of Public Health’s website for more information on AFM in Georgia: https://dph.georgia.gov/acute-flaccid-myelitis
– Visit the CDC’s website for more information on AFM in the U.S.: https://www.cdc.gov/acute-flaccid-myelitis/index.html
Since start of Fall Semester, Health Services has identified cases consistent with an illness called “Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease.”
Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease (HFMD) is a temporary viral illness caused by one of several viruses including echovirus, enterovirus and coxsackievirus. It is most commonly seen in young children but can be seen in all age groups. There is no vaccine for HFMD.
It is contagious and is spread by nose and mouth secretions, blister fluid, close personal contact (like hugging) with an infected person, contact with feces (changing diapers), and contact with contaminated objects and not washing your hands before touching your face.
Persons with HFMD are most contagious during the first week of illness and are advised to avoid class, work and other group activities until no fever for 24 hours and all lesions are dry.
Because the actual length of the contagious period is unclear, hand-hygiene is very important to prevent the spread of the illness. Simple steps you can take to reduce transmission include:
-washing your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol based hand sanitizer
-avoid kissing, hugging or sharing eating utensils or cups with persons with signs/symptoms of illness
Patients with HFMD typically report onset of fever and sore throat and a general feeling of malaise. Then, a day or two after the fever starts they will develop red spots in the mouth and throat that will then turn into a painful blister or ulcer. They usually start in the back of the mouth but can be anywhere.
A skin rash on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet may also develop over one or two days as flat, red spots, sometimes with blisters. It may also appear on the knees, elbows, buttocks or genital area. The palms and soles may be tender and my swell some. Some people may develop the rash on other parts of the body, including the face, trunk and arms and legs.
Most people who get hand, foot, and mouth disease will have mild illness or no symptoms at all. Symptoms typically resolve within a week. Rarely, other complications may occur.
Treatment is supportive and includes drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and treating fever and pain with ibuprofen (Motrin/Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). Throat sprays and mouthwashes labeled for treating throat pain may also be helpful.
If you have concerns about your symptoms, you should follow up with Health Services or your primary care provider.
Georgia is currently seeing an increase in Mumps cases, with 29.6% of the cases being in the 15-24 year old age group. Mumps is a contagious disease that is caused by the Mumps virus. Mumps typically starts with a few days of fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness,and loss of appetite, and is then followed by swelling of the salivary glands. It can also cause swelling of the testicles and ovaries. Anyone who is not immune from either previous Mumps infection or from Mumps vaccination can get mumps. While most students would have been vaccinated as children, some may not have been. Any student, faculty, or staff member who has not been vaccinated for Mumps or is not immune from previous Mumps infection is strongly encouraged to get vaccinated. More information about Mumps in Georgia can be found at https://dph.georgia.gov/mumps
Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness. Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk of serious flu complications. The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months get a flu shot each year. You should get a flu vaccine before flu begins spreading in your community. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against flu, so make plans to get vaccinated early in fall, before flu season begins. CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October, if possible. Getting vaccinated later, however, can still be beneficial and vaccination should continue to be offered throughout the flu season, even into January or later.
Get your flu shot from Health Services Pharmacy or at one of our flu shot clinics.
Flu shots are available on the Armstrong Campus via walk in at the Health Services Clinic
Zika is a virus transmitted by mosquitoes. Sexual transmission has also been documented. The primary concern regarding Zika is that the virus can cause a birth defect called microcephaly in a developing fetus. The CDC continues to have a Level 2 Travel Alert in place for areas in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. A Level 2 Alert indicates that the CDC is recommending that travelers to those areas practice enhanced safety precautions. For more information about Zika, including specific recommendations for persons traveling to or returning from a Zika-affected area, see https://www.cdc.gov/zika/ .
While traditionally a problem mostly associated with developing countries, over the past several years the presence of bed bugs has been increasing across the United States. The presence of bed bugs is not associated with the level of cleanliness of living conditions, and they have been found in five-star hotels and resorts. While bed bugs do not spread disease and treatment of the itchy bites with an over-the-counter antihistamine or anti-itch cream is usually sufficient, students with severely bothersome symptoms may choose to schedule an appointment with Health Services for further evaluation.
Last updated: 2/5/2019