Hand, foot and mouth disease can spread like wildfire in a daycare or kindergarten class, where kids are newly exposed to viruses and have no real sense of boundaries. But the viral illness is not just a threat to children.

Several college campuses throughout the country have reported outbreaks of hand, foot and mouth, which can hit its victims with a fever, sore throat, malaise, and painful sores on — you guessed it — their hands and feet, and in their mouth.

Since the beginning of October, 11 students at Princeton University have sought treatment for the mild illness that is easily spread. The university issued a note about the situation to parents, faculty and staff.

But the hope is the threat is over with most students away from campus last week for fall break.

Dr. Ted Louie, an infectious disease expert with the Medical Society of New Jersey, said doctors typically see HFMD cases in patients under 5 years old. But students in dorms or military barracks can be prime targets as well.

"Many viruses do have a seasonality, so hand, foot and mouth seems to be more summer and fall. That's when we see it the most," Louie added.

For the most part, HFMD is a benign illness, he said. In rare instances, it can be severe and require hospitalization.

HFMD is caused by a number of viruses — the most common being coxsackie, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The viruses can be found in one's saliva, mucus, blister fluid or feces.

Similar to the common cold, its spread is made possible through close personal contact or the air droplets of an infected person's cough or sneeze. It can also be contracted through contact with contaminated objects and surfaces.

Princeton's note said frequent hand-washing with warm water is the most effective way to prevent the disease. There's no specific treatment for HFMD; over-the-counter medications can relieve one's pain and fever, and mouthwash can numb mouth pain.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.