By HEATHER BRADY and JESSICA MASULLI
Since last Wednesday, 26 students have visited the Health Care Center in fear that they had head lice, but only nine of the cases were confirmed.
Thomas Riley, director of student health and a physician, said that starting on Wednesday, Sept. 15, students concerned about lice began coming to the health center, with the bulk of the visits happening last Wednesday and Thursday.
“The students are living in several different residence halls,” Riley said. “The outbreak is not due to an infestation in a residence hall.”
Sarah Hundley, a sophomore and resident assistant in Willard, thought she had head lice and had difficulty getting checked at the Health Care Center.
“It’s like one of my worst nightmares,” Hundley said about getting head lice.
Hundley said that she went to the health center to be checked for lice, but the health center encouraged her to have a friend check her hair.
According to Riley, anyone can check for head lice effectively by looking for the nits, or small yellow or white spots attached to the hair shafts near the ears or neck. Dandruff is often mistaken for head lice, but it can be brushed off more easily than head lice.
“The diagnosis is most often made by inspecting the hair without the aid of the microscope,” Riley said. “The Student Health Center will be happy to examine any student concerned that they have head lice.”
Rachel Underwood, a sophomore and Eagle Landing resident, has also experienced some difficulty with getting checked for head lice.
“I checked my head and saw what I thought was eggs,” Underwood said.
Underwood was later checked at the health center and does not have lice.
According to Chris Porter, director of Residence Life, the students who had confirmed cases of head lice all knew each other and were in close proximity to each other.
“Head lice are transmitted from person to person typically by hair-to-hair contact—for example, hugging,” Riley said. “They may also be transmitted by exchanging items that touch the hair, such as hats, combs or pillows.”
Riley believes that students should not be concerned with getting lice from sitting on furniture in the residence halls.
“Head lice cannot live more than a day or two on furniture, bedding or pets. They must have a human host,” Riley said.
Porter added that head lice do not imply dirty or unsanitary conditions in a residence hall.
Neither Porter nor Riley can remember any recent cases of head lice at UMW.
“Head lice are common in elementary schools, but less common in universities,” Riley said.
According to Porter, Residence Life has not sent out an e-mail notifying students of any head lice on campus.
“We have communicated directly with involved individuals,” Porter said.