A case of head lice was discovered in a first-year dorm last week, alarming many residents and sending a stream of worried students to the health center.
According to the Dudley Coe Health Center, only one student who came in to be checked last week had an actual case of head lice, but nearly 40 students were seen at Dudley Coe in regards to the outbreak.
Immediately after the first case was diagnosed on Wednesday night, students checked each other for lice and eggs. Within a few hours, many other students on the floor believed they too had lice. Students made a late-night run to Wal-Mart to buy toxic lice shampoo, and by morning almost everyone on the floor had treated their hair.
"There was self-diagnosis going on, but the health center wasn't verifying," said Proctor Dan Robinson '07.
Once the news broke within the dorm on Thursday morning, students from all floors of the dorm were alerting each other, sending a flurry of first years to the health center. Some students said they felt itchy just after hearing the word "lice."
"One student was diagnosed. We're breaking 40 on the number of students who have come in here to be checked. Many have already treated themselves and have come back because they are convinced the lice are back," said College Physician and Director of Health Services Jeff Benson.
"Ninety percent of the people [who have come in to be checked] have had no direct contact with the person who had lice or anything the person touched," he said.
Despite the fact that only one student was diagnosed with the condition, residents of the affected floor were initially frustrated by the response of the College, specifically the failure to help students pay for any of the related costs. Students spent a combined $140 for the lice shampoo, and also spent money doing laundry and washing sheets, clothes, and anything else that might have come in contact with the bugs.
In recent days, however, as concerns have surfaced again about the possibility of the lice being back, students said that they feel the health center has become helpful and responsive. According to Benson, Dudley Coe has set aside time to check or recheck everyone on the floor.
"Our hope is that if everyone can be cleared at the same time, and then go back to their floor and clean up as we've instructed, we'll be more certain of having stopped this cycle, and by that I mean both possible infestations and ongoing concerns," he said.
Because a college environment requires that students live in close proximity to one another, lice can be difficult to manage. However, the initial panic has subsided, and more of the facts are now known. Many students are now taking it in stride, and said that they were relieved the situation wasn't worse.
"It's not a big deal, anyway. Get some shampoo and wash it out," said Alexi Thomakos '10.
"I think we should get together and rub heads," he joked.
According to Benson, lice are extremely rare. Typically, only zero to two students per year contract them.
"I can't even remember the last time something like this happened," he said. "It's that uncommon."