September 21, 2018
As some may already know, there have been several cases of lice diagnosed at Amherst in recent weeks. This is not uncommon; outbreaks of head lice occur all the time in the United States at schools and colleges and universities alike. While an outbreak can be unsettling, lice are not a health hazard and are not responsible for the spread of any disease. Nevertheless, we urge the members of our community to inform themselves--and others--about the insect, and work together to contain them.
A few basic things to keep in mind:
- Lice is spread through head-to-head, hair-to-hair contact.
- Symptoms include a tickling/itching sensation and difficulty sleeping (lice are most active in the dark).
- Wearing long hair in a bun can minimize risk of spreading or becoming infested with lice.
- Avoid sharing a hair brush, pillows, bedding, or towels with anyone that suspects they may have lice.
- Contrary to popular belief, lice cannot jump.
If you suspect you have lice:
- Visit the Keefe Health Center Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. and on Wednesdays from 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. See Hours of Operation.
- Outside of business hours, you may reach the on-call nurse triage line by calling the Keefe Health Center main phone line at (413) 542- 2267.
- Over the weekend, you can be seen at University Health Services at UMass or other local urgent care. See After Hours/Emergency Care.
If you are confirmed to have lice:
- Treat as directed by an over-the-counter medication available at local pharmacies.
- Wash clothes, bedding, and towels in hot water and dry with high heat.
What follows is some information excerpted from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/lice/head/index.html).
The head louse, or Pediculus humanus capitis, is a parasitic insect that can be found on the head, eyebrows, and eyelashes of people. Head lice feed on human blood several times a day and live close to the human scalp. Head lice are not known to spread disease.
- Tickling feeling of something moving in the hair.
- Itching, caused by an allergic reaction to the bites of the head louse.
- Irritability and difficulty sleeping; head lice are most active in the dark.
- Sores on the head caused by scratching. These sores can sometimes become infected with bacteria found on the person’s skin.
Treatment for head lice is recommended for persons diagnosed with an active infestation. All household members and other close contacts should be checked; those persons with evidence of an active infestation should be treated. Some experts believe prophylactic treatment is prudent for persons who share the same bed with actively-infested individuals. All infested persons (household members and close contacts) and their bedmates should be treated at the same time.