Several Renfield Hall residents discovered they had head lice on Sept. 28. By the next day, eight students from the building had contracted lice, which prompted the lengthy process of delousing and sanitizing dorm rooms with the help of the Department of Facilities Services, a Renfield resident told the Justice. 

Details of how the lice spread are unclear, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “direct head-to-head contact, the sharing of clothes, brushes, or sharing a space with an infected person” are the most frequent causes. 

According to the first student who found lice in their hair, a friend pointed out a crawling louse as they were hanging out.  The next day, residents preemptively checked each other for nits and discovered that up to eight people had contracted lice. Several students told the Justice that what ensued was a hectic scramble to seek treatment.

Affected students rushed to a nearby 24-hour CVS Pharmacy, where one student said they “bought out all of one brand of lice treatment.” According to a resident, the affected students then began an 11-hour process of shampooing, rinsing and combing everyone’s hair. A student looked back at the pandemonium and said, “It was definitely a fever dream … We all just saw the worst versions of ourselves come out.”

As reported by residents, one of the biggest issues was finding treatment because the Brandeis Health Center was closed for Rosh Hashanah break. In an interview with the Justice, an affected student said, “We had to deal with it entirely by ourselves. I didn’t feel like there was much direction from the University.” Although the students managed to eradicate the lice on their own, one resident stated that this situation shed light on the limitations of the Health Center: “I saw the flaws of having the Health Center closed for long periods of time.” 

Despite their lack of resources, students worked together to resolve the issue. “I thought for the most part, we had a pretty quick response,” said Xaveria Mayerhofer ’21, a Renfield Community Advisor. She said she promptly sent out emails to Renfield residents, many of whom had gone home for the break, detailing the process of removing lice and preventing their spread. 

According to Maira Pantoja, the area coordinator for Massell and Rosenthal Quads, Facilities offered to sanitize and shampoo residence hall carpets for students who made a room cleaning request. She said all rooms who requested the service were sanitized by Wednesday, Oct. 2. “Our Area Coordinator On-Call, Community Advisors, and Facilities team that were present over the weekend were pivotal in the swift response needed to remedy this concern,” Pantoja said. 

By the time the long weekend had ended and students returned to campus, most were using the treatment or had completely gotten rid of their lice. Looking back at the incident, one student said, “It took a while to recover from that night, but I really feel so much closer [to my friends] … I think [that experience] will do that to you.”

The Health Center did not respond to a request for comment. 

—Editor’s Note: The names of the affected students were removed for privacy reasons.