Head lice spread throughout campus, cases now waning

Hadley Jolley

Head lice have spread throughout campus, with three cases confirmed by the Welty Student Health Center as well as multiple unconfirmed cases within the past week. Though cases have decreased in recent days, students in both Jewett and Prentiss Halls have been affected by the insects, known to lay eggs and cause itchiness to the scalp.

In Jewett Hall, residents began checking themselves for head lice on Jan. 20 after one resident in the Pit confirmed that she had lice. Word: and lice: soon got around.

“It was one of the first big pieces of gossip to go through the door,” said first-year Jewett resident Katie Haaheim.

Haaheim said that she did not know of anyone specifically affected with lice. Although unconfirmed rumors circled around, she knew people who had been checked.

“We imagined the Pit as just crawling with lice,” said Haaheim.

She said she feared getting lice not only because of the hassle of getting rid of them, but also because of a perceived stigma.

“It goes back to elementary school and the lice checks, and you never wanted to be the kid where they went poking through you’re hair and said, ‘Oh,'” said Haaheim.

“Sara,” a Prentiss resident who spoke on the condition of anonymity, found out she had nits: lice eggs: in her hair after a friend contacted her to tell her she might have been exposed. Another friend, who had worked at a summer camp, checked her out.

“I’ve never had lice, but I’m guessing it’s a lot itchier,” she said. “Having eggs, you don’t really suspect it.”

Sara bought anti-lice shampoo and used a fine-tooth comb to get the eggs out. She also washed all of her bedding and clothes.

“This whole thing reminds me of STDs. If you know of someone who has it, you worry that you have it, too,” Sara said.

Head lice, however, are easier to spread than sexually transmitted diseases.

“Lice have nits, little eggs, on the scalp. And they can stay there until they hatch,” said Claudia Ness, director of the health center. “But they can also stay on pillows, linens, blankets, stocking caps [and] scarves that we wear around our necks.”

Lice can spread by contact with any object the nits live on, including bedding.

“It’s hard in a dorm setting not to sit on someone’s bed when you go to their room,” said sophomore Sunithi Hindagolla, the Jewett resident assistant who dealt with the initial outbreak.

Ness said that the principal symptom of head lice is itching.

“Oftentimes it’s difficult to know without anyone inspecting it whether you just have dandruff or dry skin, or there’s an infestation of something in there,” said Ness.

She also said that people who suspect that they might have lice can come to the health center to find out.

Ness said that the lice outbreak is on the wane.

“We haven’t had much reference to it over the weekend or today,” she said Monday, Jan. 25.

According to Hindagolla, who started as an RA in Jewett this month, the lice outbreak did lead to something good: section bonding.

“It was kind of amusing and helped me bond with my girls a little bit more,” she said. “It was a weird bonding experience, though.”