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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Ohio's Kenyon College: If We Had DDT, We Wouldn't Have A Scabies Outbreak

GAMBIER, Ohio (TDB) -- Students at Kenyon College are battling an outbreak of scabies, a skin disease caused by a parasitic mite. A school official said it's a fact of life without DDT, a pesticide banned because it was harsh on the environment.

The outbreak began earlier this month and follows infestations of bedbugs in a dormitory at Ohio State University and across the City of Cincinnati, where health officials have grown increasingly concerned. All of a sudden, it seems as if ancient scourges that were seldom heard abut are causing problems in Ohio.

Kenyon is a private school with 1,600 students abut 45 miles from Columbus in Central Ohio. Scabies mites infest the skin and spread rapidly where there is skin to skin contact between people. The Centers of Disease Control says a handshake or hug won't spread the disease.

"Infestation is easily spread to sexual partners and household members. Infestation may also occur by sharing clothing, towels and bedding."

Nick Mohar-Schurz has reported in The Kenyon Collegian campus newspaper that at least 15 students had scabies and 40 others have had examinations. He writes the outbreak has been attributed -- perhaps unfairly -- to a student who though a serious case of itching was caused by too many mosquito bites.

Rebecca Metcalf, acting director of the student health center, seemed to downplay the outbreak when she spoke to the student journalist, who reported:

"At the beginning of the school year, the college handled a case of head lice and another unrelated case of scabies. These kinds of incidents, Metcalf said, are normal for schools like Kenyon, where many of the students are camp counselors during the summer months. She said camp mattresses --indeed, bedding of any kind -- are notorious for harboring outdoor critters, but that these infestations are usually eradicated at the beginning of school. Scabies is not uncommon at the beginning of any school's fall semester, she said, especially now that harmful chemicals, such as DDT, are no longer ridding the environment of such pests."

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