‘Super lice’ – What you need to know

(Courtesy: WFLA)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WFLA) – Reports about ‘super lice’ have been circulating in the science world since 1990, according to the web-based science news service Phys.org. The latest research done in the field shows that the ‘super lice’ were detected in 25 states including Tennessee.

Here is what you need to know about the creepy crawlers in our area.

WHAT ARE LICE?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, lice are parasitic insects roughly 2–3 mm long. Lice can be found the head, eyebrows, and eyelashes of people. Head lice infest the head and neck and attach their eggs to the base of the hair shaft. Head lice feed on human blood several times a day and live close to the human scalp. Lice move by crawling; they cannot hop or fly. Head lice infestation, or pediculosis, is spread most commonly by close person-to-person contact. Dogs, cats, and other pets do not play a role in the transmission of human lice.

Head lice are not known to spread disease.

WHAT ARE SUPER LICE?

In August 2015 a searcher at the Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville Kyong Yoon, Ph.D. proved that there are lice that are resistant to the chemical used in most common over-the-counter lice treatment. Yoon studied a large number of samples from across the country and came to the conclusion that almost all lice populations tested have developed gene mutations that made them resistant to the chemical called pyrethroids. According to phys.org, pyrethroids are a family of insecticides used to control mosquitoes and other insects. It includes permethrin, the active ingredient in some of the most common lice treatments sold at drug stores.

WHAT DOES CDC SAY ABOUT SUPER LICE?

According to CDC, the head lice may become resistant to the treatment used. But CDC also mentions that the treatment may also be ineffective because it wasn’t used correctly or because it was a wrong diagnosis altogether. In the case of the possible super lice, CDC suggests working closely with the pharmacist or the medical professional to make sure the treatment was used correctly and to pick out another treatment method if needed.

WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?

Dr. Yoon says that lice can still be controlled by using different chemicals, some of which are available only by prescription, according to Phys.org.

HOW DO CHILDREN GET LICE?

According to CDC, the most common way to get lice infestation is the head-to-head contact which is common at schools, kindergartens, playgrounds, camp, slumber parties etc.

Less common ways include sharing clothing (hats, scarves, coats, sports uniforms) or articles (hair ribbons, barrettes, combs, brushes, towels, stuffed animals) recently worn or used by an infested person; or lying on a bed, couch, pillow, or carpet that has recently been in contact with an infested person.

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOM OF HEAD LICE INFESTATION?

CDC mentions these symptoms of head lice infestation:

  • 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.

The only difference between regular lice and super lice infestation is the response of the crawlers to the treatment. Everything else including the symptoms is the same.

TREATMENT

Lice can be treated by a variety of OTC and prescription medications and methods.

  • Make sure to alway use the treatment EXACTLY as described on the package or directed by your health care provider;
  • The infected person should change clothes after treatment;
  • Wash and dry bed linens, clothes and toys the infected person has used;
  • Either dry-clean or toss in the hot dryer the items that can’t be washed.

You can find more treatment instructions here.

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