Scarborough and Massabesic high school officials said they were being proactive when they canceled Friday’s football game over concerns about the highly contagious – but not overly serious – hand, foot and mouth disease.

In a letter sent to parents, students and community members on Thursday night, Scarborough officials said Massabesic High has reported cases of coxsackievirus, which causes hand, foot and mouth disease. Massabesic, in Waterboro, is part of Regional School Unit 57.

Custodians will also be giving “extra attention” to sanitizing the locker room and other school areas, Massabesic officials said.

The Maine Principals’ Association, which oversees high school athletics in Maine, said it’s an unusual situation.

“We’re trying to remember a time where we’ve had to cancel a football game,” said Michael Bisson, assistant executive director at the MPA. “This is kind of a new one for us.”

The disease, common among younger children, is highly contagious but not serious, according to the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.

It usually starts out with victims having a fever, poor appetite, fatigue, and sore throat. A few days after the fever starts, painful sores develop, usually on the tongue, gums and inside of the cheeks. A non-itchy skin rash also develops over one or two days, usually on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, and sometimes on the buttocks and/or genitalia.

It is usually spread through unwashed hands that allow direct contact with the virus, which is carried in the saliva and other bodily fluids of an infected person.

Nearly all people recover in seven to 10 days without medical treatment, the according to the CDC’s website.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is not a reportable disease to the Maine Center of Disease Control and Prevention, which means each case does not have to be reported to state officials. However, the Department of Health and Human Services would be aware of any illness, including hand, foot and mouth, if it reached “outbreak” status – which in schools is defined as when at least 15 percent of the student body is absent due to illness. A spokeswoman said they do not currently have any confirmed outbreaks.

The game was to be a homecoming event at Scarborough High.

“We understand that this news is disappointing and impacts some of our homecoming plans but our students’ health and safety is our number one priority,” Scarborough officials said in their letter.

The letter said Scarborough’s next football game will be Oct. 6 at Thornton Academy.

The Scarborough-Massabesic game is not expected to be rescheduled, according to the athletic administrators at both schools.

“We don’t have any plans to play (Friday, Saturday) or Monday. Beyond that I don’t know where it would fit in,” said Mike LeGage, Scarborough’s director of athletics/activities. “Nothing is worth a child’s safety. No game. No Heal points. Nothing. So that was in the front of our mind. That makes these decisions a little less complicated.”

Massabesic athletic director Brendan Scully, who is also chairman of the Maine Principals’ Association football committee, said both Massabesic and Scarborough will now have a seven-game schedule. If it at the end of the regular season playoff seeding is affected by the removal of the game, then Scarborough would be awarded a victory, Scully said.

When asked if other teams or games involving Massabesic would be affected, Scully referred all questions to a letter sent to Massabesic parents on Thursday by high school principal James Hand. The letter said there had been “reported cases of the Coxsackie virus,” urged students to practice good hygiene, and that “persons with blisters (hand and feet) that are ‘wet’ or open and draining,” need to stay home until the sores are dry and the person is fever-free for 24 hours.

There was no mention in the Massabesic letter of any other athletic cancellations.

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