Concerns about student health grow on campus


Brianna Hatch

The student health center offers guidance and treatment for diseases circulating around campus.

Abby Kim, Staff Writer

Health concerns have spread throughout Washington and Lee’s campus with the recent rise of hand-foot-and-mouth disease, a resurgent COVID-19 virus and the spread of the common cold. 

On Sept. 15, the university Student Health Center also sent out a cautionary notice about a recent outbreak of monkeypox in the Virginia area. Though the email was purely meant to be informational, many students have expressed anxiety about the idea of illness spreading on campus, including Autumn Crawford, ‘26.

“A lot of people are starting to get sick, so recently I’ve been inclined to wear my mask more often than not,” Crawford said.

Director of Student Health Jane Horton reassures students that, while cases are rare, Washington and Lee is prepared to combat the monkeypox virus.

“We have not seen any cases yet at Washington and Lee,” Horton said. And monkepox is “not likely to affect a large number of students in our population even if we do see any cases,”  she added.

Another contagious illness that has made itself known to Washington and Lee students is hand-foot-and-mouth disease, a common children’s virus that causes sores in the mouth and rashes on the hands and feet.

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease “is a communicable disease that we see periodically on campus,” Horton said. “We have had four or five cases— it is not a crisis. We sent out communications so people would know what to watch for and take precautions.”

Horton said the health center sent out information to inform students of symptoms to watch for and precautions to take. She also encourages everyone to get the new bivalent booster shot this fall, along with a flue shot, to reduce the spread of hand-foot-and-mouth and COVID-19. 

Director of Health Promotion Jan Kaufman said that an uptick in coronavirus cases is not surprising, since it is the first year of the pandemic where the university does not have a mask mandate on campus.   

“I know most people want to be completely done with the COVID pandemic. Personally, I feel that still remains to be seen,” Kaufman said. “Until we get to the winter, when cases accumulate as people start to congregate inside, I can’t say for certain that the pandemic is officially past us.”

Kaufman said that the best protective measures against COVID-19 are basic hygiene practices: washing hands, not sharing food or drink items and receiving the available vaccines. 

Yvonne Cheng, ‘26, said the efforts made by the health center to stop the spread of disease makes her feel less anxious. 

“The student health center in particular has been great by giving free COVID tests out,” Cheng said. “It really helps the community to feel safer.”

While many students are tired of following guidelines and being cautious, Kaufman said that students have to be vigilant to stop the spread of disease on campus.

“The more we let our guard down, the higher the number of incidents we’re going to see,” Kaufman said.