Last Tuesday, Sept. 15, Grinnell’s Student Health and Counseling Services (SHACS) released a campus memo alerting the student population that there were a growing number of ringworm cases on campus. Ringworm, also known by its medical term as tinea, is a common fungal skin infection that causes a scaly rash easily identifiable by its ‘ring’-shaped patch.
Though typical ringworm cases can be treated with over-the-counter anti-fungal creams or powders, the fungal infection is highly contagious. According to SHACS’s Campus Memo, “you can catch ringworm if you touch someone who has the infection, or if you come into contact with items contaminated by the fungus, such as combs, unwashed clothing, and shower or pool surfaces. You can also catch ringworm from pets that carry the fungus.”
“[It was said that] a group of students went to [Poweshiek Animal League Shelter] and a couple of kittens had ringworm, and they got it from there,” said a ringworm-infected Grinnell student who wished to remain anonymous. “The rumor has it that some swimmers were infected and got it on the gym equipment. Nothing against swimmers, but that’s [the rumor].”
Students who believe they have the symptoms for ringworm should visit SHACS for an evaluation and initial treatment. Once they are diagnosed, SHACS will provide an anti-fungal cream or powder free of charge. Those with more severe cases may need to be prescribed stronger products from their health care provider.
The Grinnell student hypothesizes that she may have caught the infection from a friend who was unaware that she had ringworm.
“It was strange because I got it before I realized it was a thing on campus,” she said. “I knew was very contagious, but that it does need skin-to-skin contact or skin-to-clothing contact, and nobody I knew besides me had it. Fortunately, a couple of days ago, I noticed that one of my close friends had it and hadn’t been attentive to it or hadn’t realized what it was, so, I was thinking that she may have wrapped her arms around me, [potentially spreading the infection].”
Students can prevent an infection by not sharing personal care items with others, especially those currently infected with ringworm, keeping their skin and feet clean and dry, shampooing regularly and wearing sandals or shoes at the gym.
SHACS was unavailable for a comment in this article.