As the Worm Turns (A Small, Strange, Not-That-Consequential-but-Interesting Story that is Just Slightly Longer Than This Headline)

Hi Readers — This story struck me as slightly, oh, I don’t know, BIZARRE? A worm was found in the local high school toilet and immediately all drinking fountains were shut off. Talk about giving kids a new idea of how to disrupt school! Here goes, from the Alamogordo Daily News:

Shortly after 4 p.m. Tuesday, the administration at Alamogordo High School reported finding a small worm of unknown origin in a toilet at school, according to a press release from Alamogordo Public Schools.

District administrators responded immediately and coordinated with the New Mexico Environmental Inspection Department, New Mexico Department of Health and the city of Alamogordo.

Inspection and water samples were conducted during the night. Preliminary water testing conducted by the New Mexico Department of Health revealed nothing other than good water quality.

As a precaution, all water fountains were shut off. Bottled water is being provided for students and staff at Alamogordo High School…

So now you don’t even need a pipe bomb anymore. All you need is a mini worm. Maybe even a gummy one! L.

57 Responses

  1. ROTFL!! As I read this, I’m picturing all the teachers (including principals) on their desks, screaming because there’s a mouse running around the classroom.

    Boo! Lol! Nervy staff.

  2. So all you need now is a worm? They should have kept their mouths shut. Now all the kids will be doing it.

  3. I wonder.. Are they going to come up with a special codeword/color for this kind of incident, which they can announce over the intercom? “Attention All Staff, we have a code chartreuse in the west hall!”

  4. Why didn’t I think of this when I was in high school!? I would have probably become one of the most popular guys!!

    But I can share this with my niece!…hihihi

  5. It would never occur to me that the worm came from the water supply. I would assume right away it came from a student.

    Was it a garden variety worm that some kid dug up and put it in the toilet because he didn’t know what to do with it?

    Was it a parasitic worm? If it was, then you have a health problem of a different sort that probably has nothing to do with the water supply and everything to do with making sure kids wash their hands after going to the bathroom. When we first got our dog from the found she was really sick and threw up & excreted these nasty worms. I was OCD for days about washing myself.

    Hmm, I wonder if anyone consulted an entomologist or even did a Google search to find out what kind of worm was in the toilet. If my kid were in that school, I’d want to know about the worm, not the water supply.

    I don’t know where else to post this, but this is a really outrageous story:

    A high school student – — just days after his father dies — has blood shot eyes. The school assume it’ because of drugs and suspends him.

    http://healthland.time.com/2010/09/14/whos-high-a-school-suspends-a-student-for-bloodshot-eyes/?iid=WBmostpopular

  6. Let me get this straight: A worm was found in a toilet, and they shut off the drinking fountains? WTF?

  7. @Roberto: What we did in elementary school (grade 5 if I recall) was set our classroom clock ahead by 30 min. For the next 2 days we got to have recess early and got out of school earlier. 3rd day we got busted. Not red handed, but our teacher set the clock, and were told if it happened again we would all be in detention. I think she caught on when we were outside playing for recess, the other kids were still in their classrooms. If I remember correctly, he was a bit of an air head, but nice. He went along with our pranks.

    We also did the replace the chalks with toothpaste, chalk wedged into board erasers, re-arranging the seats (he didn’t do roll calls for attendance, he had a seating plan and looked to see if that seat was occupied). Ahh…to be a free-range kid again. No worries, plenty of fun, and oodles of learning experience…of the real world.

  8. Yeah, I want to know about this worm. Dirt worm? Butt worm? Gummy worm? There’s potentially a very ill kid at that school, but all we know is there are DEFINATELY some mentally ill administrators.

    @elle That article was posted a week ago or so.

  9. Well I’m sure everyone knows that the toilets and the water fountains share the same plumbing! Unreal!!

    On a different note, my wife and I are participating in a walk to raise money for Epilepsy. If you can take a moment and check out http://bit.ly/teamtaubman

    Thanks!
    Erik

  10. Hmm…I’m wondering about the attitude of the worm.

    These days they can be more threatening than teenagers. Perhaps this was the issue.

    If you need to check out a worm’s attitude, see this blog posting. http://creativestarlearning.blogspot.com/2008/09/worms-with-attitude.html

  11. Was probably a pinworm. Extremely common, extremely transmittable. Our pediatrician said that every kids gets them, but not everyone realizes it. Kids don’t wash properly after using the toilet, get pinworm eggs on hands, touch doorknob/crayons/bus seat/whatever, infection spreads. Aren’t really harmful, but cause itchy behinds because they live in the rectum and come out at night to lay eggs around the anus.

    (You’re welcome for the appetizing explanation : )

  12. So Erika – what you’re saying is that if a kid had pinworm, and went to the bathroom without washing his hands, then used the water fountain, another kid could pick up the parasite by using the water fountain after him?

    If that’s the case, shutting off water fountains makes some sense. But only if this is a known or reasonable way to transmit the type of worm found in the toilet.

  13. Yes, drinking fountains are one way it could be transmitted–but you can’t shut off every surface in the school, which are all just as likely to be places where the eggs are spread. The pencil sharpener, the scissors you grab from the basket in art class, the secretary’s phone to tell your mom you forgot your lunch, etc.

  14. Wow, how skittish we’ve all become!

    My favorite part is that even after preliminary tests indicated good water quality, they still took the “precaution” of buying bottled water for everyone.

    Otherwise this story is great! It’s unique and pretty darn funny! Hooray for human-interest stories in local media!

  15. If it was a garden worm, that seems like Christmas in July for the kids! What a gift.

    But giving the administrators the benefit of the doubt and assuming it was something that *could* potentially be a parasitic worm from the water supply, shutting off water fountains seems like a sensible precaution. What I don’t get is why they would only stop people drinking at the school – if the supply is suspect you’d think the whole water district would need to take precautions.

  16. Did they call in counselors for the kids that may have been traumatized by the worm?

    Tee hee.

  17. Reminds me of a movie, but I can’t remember the name where someone dropped a candy bar into a pool… cue up the “Jaws” theme… and once it was spotted there was panic, everyone ran out, and they drained the pool, and were bleaching the walls of the pool when one of the workers found the candy bar!! haha!!

  18. Wow. WOW!
    Why not just call in the Earth Science teacher to allay all of their fears? I suppose the school’s admin have to justify their inflated budgets somehow.
    suzannerevy:Caddyshack if the movie you are thinking about.

  19. @Robin: ROTFLMGDAO!!!

    I hang my head in shame for my fellow New Mexicans. *sigh* We had a “scare” here on the news last night – a kid who was being bullied was drawing pictures of his fellow classmates without their heads and buried in the ground. Rather than question the other kids first and try to mediate… they called in the cops, the kid who drew the pictures is facing charges of intent to kill (whatever the legal term for that is) and is stuck in a psych hospital to determine whether or not he is sane.

    It’s a shame when people have gotten to the point that they’ve lost their common sense.

  20. @suzannerevy The movie was “Caddyshack.” (I remember the little girl going “doodie,” ha ha.) I actually remember the Lacey Underall character more, but hey–I’m a man, what do you expect, ha ha.

    But at any rate–oh my goodness, what a bunch of paranoia. What an overreaction. It’s actually gotten to the point to where I don’t know how much more I can keep reading this site so often–and that’s not a discredit to Lenore Skenazy at all, I am totally pro free-range and absolutely LOVE what she stands for, but it’s hard to read about things like this without getting quite upset about it.

    In some ways, it reminds me of what we complain about with the mainstream media–too much stressing of the bad & not enough pointing out the good. No, I am NOT saying this site is now stooping to the same tactics as the Nancy Grace and Today show, NOT at all, but I think we should have a “free range success” section, where we share stories of how we free-ranged and had a good day with it.

    And yes–watch out for the worms, ha ha.

  21. Well, if you want success stories, I’d be quite willing to bet that Jacob Isom grew up free range. Isom is the 23-year-old skateboarder who grabbed a Quran about to be set on fire by a Texas crackpot minister and delivered it to the local Islamic community center. The minister was just announcing that he was about to set the book on fire, and Isom told him “Dude, you have no Quran”.

  22. @ebohlman

    So, you’re saying that this kid stole a Qu’ran?

  23. @suzannerevy and Larry Harrison…

    Here is the famous scene.

  24. When I was in high school Biology, we were learning about tapeworms and my teacher brought out a jar full of worms and had us passing it around, then “accidentally” spilled it on a desk. Everyone started freaking out… And then he laughed and told us it was just soggy Ramen noodles.

  25. This might be the first one I’ve disagreed with. If I find a strange worm I can’t identify in the toilet bowl at the house, definitely the water is getting shut down, the digital camera is coming out, posts and emails are getting fired and no one uses the water until I find out what that worm is and where it came from.

  26. Scott, it’s pretty near impossible for a worm to come through the water supply. OTOH, plenty of people are carrying them in their intestines.

  27. Will the school be providing grief counselors?

  28. sounds like a good storyline for As the world turns provided that it wasn’t cancelled haha.

  29. LOL The Caddy Shack Baby Ruth scene was the first thing that came to mind when I read this.

  30. The only answer to this crisis is: Porta-Potties.
    I’ve never seen a WORM in one….if that’s all they’re concerned about.

  31. Wowzers.

  32. “Scott, it’s pretty near impossible for a worm to come through the water supply.”

    There’s not really extensive filtering of most municipal supplies. The primary method seems to be dumping chlorine to kill what is already there. I’ve seen certain things come through the water supply. Pebbles, slime, rust, black goo.

    And there was the fun story last week about the tiny crustaceans that are in the entire NYC water supply and can be found in every glass of NYC tap water you drink. Seems these little guys are added intentionally to reservoirs because they eat the mosquito larvae.

  33. *sigh* (head shaking)

    How embarrassing.

  34. markm – “Scott, it’s pretty near impossible for a worm to come through the water supply. OTOH, plenty of people are carrying them in their intestines.”

    We have a vacation cottage with it’s own water supply and we were told that worms in the water was a sign of a breakdown in the filtering and purification systems. Admittedly that’s a small system, not a big municipal one. But unclean water is one of the primary ways to get worms when you’re in the wilderness so it doesn’t stretch my credulity that municipal systems would have to deal with them too.

  35. And keep in mind, there’s the idea kicking around the scientific community that parasites may be good for us! The incidence of allergies in children in developed countries is much higher than in undeveloped and they are wondering if it a may be that developing countries are losing the parasites: “Given that eradication of parasite infection is a universal public health goal, it is also important that any potential adverse effects of this policy are properly defined”
    See: http://171.66.122.149/cgi/content/full/168/3/266

    @Larry — This story isn’t one of those that bummed me out, but I know what you mean! (All the MORE thanks to Lenore because we can appreciate the tough job she has!) We definitely need to watchdog all the nonsense that goes on, but I agree — let’s also share some success stories. I always enjoy it when people tell about their own childhood experiences as well. Like EricS’s story above. And @ebohlman great stuff! I’m going to google the story right now.

  36. But Scott, are they actually harmful or are they just there? We get all bent out of shape because we can measure stuff in infintesimal amounts, 1 part per billions. But just because it’s there doesn’t mean it’s going to hurt us. Our bodies are amazing machines that are able to get rid of stuff it doesn’t like.

  37. Check this out:
    http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=12133

    They mention the web cam story from a while back, and according to them, there were a lot more photos taken than it said in the story I read.

  38. “District administrators responded immediately and coordinated with the New Mexico Environmental Inspection Department, New Mexico Department of Health and the city of Alamogordo.”

    While reading this story it just felt like a parody. A joke. What a crazy world this has turned out to be, it seems that the school district were CYA (covering their butts) by going to such extreme measures to ensure no upcoming lawsuits by angry crazed sue-happy parents. I could almost picture them at the ‘worm meeting’ discussing ways to make this go away quick while making them look good. Man raising his hand-‘Uh sir, why don’t we order bottled water for all the kids until we get the go ahead that the worm in the toilet is just a worm and the water is OK?’ ‘Good one, ah whatsyourname? psst. quick, order those bottles pronto and make it my idea’
    Ridiculous. Thanks for posting though, your not ridiculous!! Love the site =)

  39. Robin – While our bodies are amazing machines, they don’t manage to fight off *everything* that does them harm without incurring damage.

    The school stopped drinking the water while tests were undertaken to find out if it was safe. How else are they going to know? And if they’re concerned enough to get it tested why would they drink from it until the results come back?

    I’m kind of surprised at the reaction to this story. So maybe I’m completely out of touch. Tuppence points out that there is some evidence that parasites may help us in some ways, but there’s also a lot of evidence that some do a lot of harm. Would people here happily drink from a water supply they knew was infested with parasitic worms?

  40. you guys want a success story? I’ve got one to share w/ the class….

    last spring, when i first started reading this blog, I posted about a coworker’s phone call I overheard. Her 13 year old daughter was home alone for the 1.5 hours between school and getting picked up by dad. It was a spectacularly beautiful day, and she was calling mom to ask if she could please, please, please go play outside. Mom asked if there were other neighborhood kids outside.. “yes”. were there any adults in sight? “no…..”. She told her daughter to stay in. (she also refused when her daughter wanted to ride her bike to school)

    I’ve been working on her ever since…. pointed out this site to her, told her many of the stories you’ all have shared… finally pointed out to her that her daughter will be driving a car in 2 years for heavens sake!

    so, let’s see… since then, she has allowed her daughter to walk to the grocery store w/ a friend (1/2 mile?)…. let her go w/ a friend to the school football game… and this year is allowing her 9 year old son to walk from bus stop home by himself. She’s even comtemplating allowing the daughter to go to mall with a friend and do her own back-to-school clothes shopping! baby steps, perhaps, but very very real ones — and very big ones for her!

  41. We just got back from Niagara Falls, Canadian side. We are from Michigan (USA). There are NO drinking fountains there, AT ALL! You HAVE TO buy bottled water, at $3 per bottle, if you get thirsty. It was the end of the trip, I had 3 thirsty kids and all my cash was gone due to activities when I discovered this. When I asked why no drinking fountains at the public parks welcome center, I was told they were taken out after 9/11. Terrorists could use the drinking fountains as a place to contaminate the water supply. Really? Are you sure? In what world could a terrorist add anything in enough amounts to a drinking fountain to be a threat to public safety? Sounds like the local businesses got together and saw an easy source of revenue and pushed the fear through.

  42. Back in the early 70s, head shops used to sell this highly concentrated scent called “liquid incense.” One drop would make an entire room smell like strawberries or whatever. A half-ounce bottle dumped in a corner of the typing lab would shut down the entire business wing for a day, if it happened to be the day of a typing test. (Mind you, this was back when a passing grade was touch-typing 35 wpm clear on a MANUAL.)

    We also used to leave Zip-Lok bags with a dozen or so Tic-Tacs in them where a paranoid administrator who was convinced the entire student body was on drugs would find them. As I’ve said before, send in the clowns, with drug dogs borrowed from the Highway Patrol.

  43. “Would people here happily drink from a water supply they knew was infested with parasitic worms?”

    Doing so would be a heck of a lot safer than getting in my car to go to work. It’s this inability to judge relative risk which leads to overreactions to the slightest dangers that is what concerns us.

    This same school district had a bomb scare a while back on a very hot day. They made the teachers and students stand out in the sun for hours without proper hydration. At least one person was hospitalized. If bombs in schools were common, I would understand the concern. But to my knowledge the last time a school was bombed in the US was more than 60 years ago. There was no prior warning. And the bomber was a member of the school board! The fact is that making everyone stand in the sun was a greater risk than the bomb. “Worst case thinking” takes away our ability to weigh risks reasonably.

  44. Re: school bomb threat. I’m sure that people will say that if we aren’t vigilant about that sort of thing, we make a bomber’s job easy. But if you are able to cause havoc, disruption, and possible injury (sunstroke, etc.) for the cost of a simple phone call… sounds easy to me.

  45. @ mvb – Good work for our team! And does the mom seem happier? We know the kids are.

  46. Shucks, I missed my chance to get a day off work: I found a little worm on my desk this morning. I just put it in the garbage and to think I could have gotten the university shut down entirely!

    LOL

  47. Confession: Was not without pause when I used the toilet at my daughter’s school today after reading/commenting/thinking about the worm story.

  48. Helenique – I hardly think one worm in one toilet is an infestation. And if said worm had been flushed with no one else’s knowledge that it existed, then what?

  49. @tuppence — absolutely. AND.. she’s now working on her boyfriend! (He wouldn’t let his 11 year old son stand in the concessions line by himself… 10 feet away from where they were sitting at a kids’ softball game.

    so, not just baby steps, but chain reaction…. all because Lenore let her son ride the subway!

  50. Robin – I didn’t mean to imply that one worm was an infestation. The school at the moment has an unknown worm of unknown origin. I see it merely as an indicator that they *might* have an infestation, since the eggs that I thought were the real problem would not be visible. If someone had flushed the worm and the water supply actually was compromised I would have thought they wouldn’t have found out until there were a lot of people from the school diagnosed – and by then the source of the contamination may have gone.

    But my question was more because in the comments people don’t seem that concerned about the water being drunk if it is contaminated. Where as I’ve always thought that was pretty bad. So I was wondering if I’d understood that correctly.

    Maybe the parasites that are normal in the States aren’t that serious and my view is colored by reading about contaminated water in Africa. Or maybe I’ve just really misunderstood how the whole worm thing works. I was just really surprised by the responses.

  51. Helenquine — Parasites in the US are as dangerous here as anywhere else in the world, but they are not normally found in the public water supply. Municipal water supplies are very safe in the U.S. They are treated and monitored constantly. I can’t recall there being any problems with any of the water in my area, outside a disaster — a hurricane, tornado, etc., which may force so much water into the system that it cannot be treated quickly enough.

    This is another case of over-worrying. One worm was found, the water was considered fine, yet they still drink the bottled water. The danger is most likely transmitted from student to student through contact (or not at all; it’s still not clear to me what kind of worm it was).

    There are most definitely places in the US where people should be worried about their water supply — but it is clearly not the case in the town mentioned in the story.

    These people’s time and anxiety would be much better spent raising money so areas in other parts of the country & the world get access to safe drinking water.

  52. “are they actually harmful or are they just there”

    The crustaceans are not harmful unless you are orthodox jewish or muslim in which case you’re not supposed to eat shellfish.

    The claim was made that it is unreasonable for me to suppose that worms could come through the pipes, presuming that municipal water is somehow finely filtered or something. It’s not though, the main way city water is made clean is by the addition of chlorine. Small animals, pebbles and worms can get through, including tiny crustaceans for example which is a recently well known example.

  53. That never happened when I was teaching… It would have rocked!

  54. I don’t get the responses either. I immediately assumed pinworms or something similar. They are very contagious. I think I had some around age 10 for a couple of weeks. But I probably got them from playing with other kids in the mud (OH NO!). If they found parasites, they should probably be disinfecting the school doorknobs, bathrooms, fountains, etc. and/or sending some info home to parents.

    But I have to say, and not just because I work in water, that clean water and sanitary sewers improved world life expectancy probably more than any other factor, including the gazillions of dollars spent on creating and dispensing modern medicine. (I think I heard this from a couple of science profs.) Kids in many poorer areas die of contaminated water by the thousands. We do not overcome every threat, especially when already compromised by malnutrition or illness.

    @Robin:
    Agents measured in infinitessimal amounts can be harmful in your water. There is good science behind this. Probably, they will just cause a few people to die of cancer 30 years from now or will contribute to the erosion of aquatic life and concentrate in the nearby wetlands. Chemicals probably won’t make you sick immediately.

  55. How silly! the worm probably fell out of a little boys pocket!

  56. Sites we Like……

    […] Every once in a while we choose blogs that we read. Listed below are the latest sites that we choose […]……

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: