Diseases pop up on campus


The first days of school for Butler University are “kind of like daycare,” said Julie Howerton, director of health services.

“Everyone is a little more vulnerable at the beginning of the year, because they haven’t had that exposure,” Howerton said. “That is part of the challenge when students come back to campus. It’s all new bugs, for the most part.”

Cases of varicella, or chickenpox, and hand, foot and mouth disease were reported since Welcome Week.  

The office of Student Affairs sent a campus-wide email to inform students of a reported case  chickenpox on Sept. 2.

Student Affairs said in a campus-wide email that the greatest risk of exposure on campus was between Aug. 26 through 29.  Symptoms may not be seen for 10 to 21 days after exposure to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infected Butler students may not exhibit chickenpox symptoms until Sept. 19.

The reported case of chickenpox is not considered an outbreak. 

A chickenpox outbreak occurs when there are three reported cases related to the original case, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

Chickenpox symptoms include rash, high temperature, tiredness, loss of appetite and headache.

The varicella vaccine is required for Butler students. Exceptions are made for students with medical or religious convictions.

No vaccine is 100 percent effective, according to the CDC. Vaccinated students can still develop a mild or “breakthrough” case. Breakthrough cases are generally mild and occur 42 days after a vaccination. 

Another illness students are susceptible to is hand, foot and mouth disease.

Symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease include sore throat, headache, fever, and blister-like sores in the mouth and on hands and feet, according to the Center for Disease Control.

Hand, foot and mouth disease spreads through personal contact, sneezing or coughing and contaminated surfaces.

Although hand, foot and mouth disease is common this time of year, physicians are seeing an increase in the number of cases, as reported in a story by the Indianapolis Star

This virus is more common among children.  However, cases have been reported at Butler.

Junior Garrett Oberst contracted the virus. He started noticing symptoms of hand, foot and mouth on Aug. 29 during the first week of classes. He went to an immediate care clinic about 4 days later, and his symptoms cleared after a week.  

“I think it is pretty common for people to get sick at the beginning of the year,” Oberst said. “My immune system was pretty suppressed from Welcome Week. Being a (Student Orientation Guide), I didn’t get a lot of sleep. I was just going the whole day.”

Howerton said that hand, foot and mouth cannot be treated.

“It runs its course, just like a common cold,” she said. “The only treatment we can give is supportive, to help with the rash or temperature.”

Oberst said he was not given a prescription and was told it would clear up on its own.

It is common for students, particularly freshmen, to fall prey to illness at the beginning of the year. Howerton said as students try to find balance in their sleep, diet and exercise schedule, their immune systems are not as strong as they are normally.

Howerton said students should to do their part to stay healthy.

“If you are not doing a good job washing your hands, throwing tissues away properly, just practicing good hygiene, then you are part of the problem,” Howerton said. “And that is true all year, whether it is strep, mono or the flu.”

When viruses like these are identified on campus, Howerton said that they step up cleaning in areas with “touch points.” Touch points are things like door handles and desks that numerous people come into contact with on a daily basis.

Howerton said it is important for students, even if they go elsewhere for medical care,  to inform the Health and Recreation Complex of illness, so that they can keep the campus educated and informed.