‘Super lice’ – What you need to know

(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 Florida.

MAP: States where super lice have been detected

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


We have asked the school departments in Tampa Bay area about lice infestation and school lice policies and here is what we learned:


Schools in this district abide by ‘No-Nit’ policy. Nits or lice eggs can be found on the hair shaft of the person infected with lice. No-Nit policy means that the student with lice can not come back to class until there are no nits in his or her hair.

According to CDC the no-nit policy can be discontinued, because many nits can be just empty casings, will not develop into lice and since they are attached to the hair, they will not transfer to other students.

The Hillsborough County School District officials explained that they have a no-nit policy “because it can not be determined if a head louse egg is viable by visual inspection. Personal hygiene standards warrant thorough removal of all lice, eggs or nits. This policy prevents repeated infestations caused by eggs that survive treatment and then hatch.”

Hillsborough school officials said they area aware of super lice and will recommend a stronger treatment if there is an infestation.

There hasn’t been an outbreak of lice infestation in Hillsborough schools, they have seen a “normal amount of cases” in the schools, officials said.


Polk County School District also has a no-nit policy. Schoool wide head checks are performed at the schools, no more than twice a year for elementary school age students. The first five days of absence due to head lice are considered excused absence, according to the Polk head lice policies.

Polk officials also mention that only one in 10 lice transmissions occurs in school. They do not keep track of the statistical data of the lice infestations.

Polk school officials mention the Olive Oil treatment as an alternative to the chemical way:

Olive oil smothers and kills active head lice (lab tested at Harvard School of Public Health). Apply to the head, cover with a shower cap then wrap with a bandana and leave on for 8 to 12 hours (overnight). Use the olive oil treatment according to the following schedule: Olive Oil Treatment Days: 1, 5, 9, 13, 17 & 21

The treatment has been carefully timed to coincide with the life cycle of the louse. If you choose not to use a pediculicide, use the olive oil treatment on Day 1 and Day 2 in addition to all the other designated days.

Because this treatment doesn’t include the use of the chemical pyrethroids, super lice will be successfully killed by the Olive Oil treatment. Polk officials said this treatment can be very effective if done correctly.


Pinellas County school officials told us, the school district policy allows for a parent to request their child be checked for lice by the school’s staff. A teacher can also request an individual student be checked. If a student has lice or nits, he or she is not allowed to be in school until they have undergone treatment and are clear of lice and/or nits.

The district has a five-day excused absence policy as well.

Pinellas School District doesn’t keep statistical data on the lice infestations.

The officials said they were aware of the super lice.




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