'Super lice' now found in 25 states

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Wednesday, March 9, 2016
'Super lice' resistant to over-the-counter treatments have been found in 25 states.
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A strain of head lice resistant to over-the-counter treatments has now been found in 25 states across the U.S.

"Super lice" were first reported in the United States in 2000 by Kyong Yoon, Ph.D. In 2015, Yoon found they had spread to 25 states.

"If you use a chemical over and over, these little creatures will eventually develop resistance," Yoon told the American Chemical Society. "So we have to think before we use a treatment. The good news is head lice don't carry disease. They're more a nuisance than anything else."

While exact numbers are hard to peg down, an estimated 6-12 million lice infestations occur each year in the United States among children ages 3-11, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lice is spread by close contact with the hair of a person who already has lice and since head-to-head contact can be common during activities like playdates, slumber parties and sports, children are often susceptible to infestation.

Prescription medications are available to treat super lice. Comb-out treatments, where specialists comb and pick out the lice by hand, can be another option, although they can cost hundreds of dollars.

If a case of lice is found in your household, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:

  • Having household members checked
  • Washing pillow cases and bedding
  • Cleaning hair care items
  • Vacuuming furniture, carpeting, car seats, and other fabrics