48 Investigates: New super lice is a concern to parents - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

48 First Alert Investigation

48 Investigates: New super lice is a concern to parents

Lice populations in the states in pink have developed a high level of resistance to some of the most common treatments. (Source: Kyong Yoon, Ph.D.) Lice populations in the states in pink have developed a high level of resistance to some of the most common treatments. (Source: Kyong Yoon, Ph.D.)
DECATUR, AL (WAFF) -

Super lice is basically head lice that does not respond well to treatment.

Pediatrician MeLissa Young-Harkins has just about seen it all when it comes to ailments in children.  One thing she says can be problematic in families is lice.

"It's very important that you do get the determined diagnosis from your general practitioner and or a dermatologist to prove in fact that it is lice. There are a lot of illnesses and conditions that may mimic it," said Young-Harkins.

Now comes word of super lice.

"The reason this issue of super lice has come up is that last year someone published a study where they went to about 30 states in the U.S. and collected head lice and then they did a genetic analysis of them looking for a mutation which would make those lice resistant to the common over the counter medicines," said Dr. Scott Harris.

"It's very similar to the resistance we have to antibiotics," added Young-Harkins.

The reason many parents and doctors are so concerned about this super lice is because it's so hard to treat.  And that's because there is a tolerance built up with the usual treatment.

"They found those in about 25 states and that includes Alabama.  We currently don't know of any clinical cases of that.  Sometimes we hear a report of head lice that didn't respond well to treatment, but virtually always when we study that we find that perhaps the treatment wasn't applied correctly or wasn't applied often enough," said Harris.

Even the mere mention of lice is enough to get some parents upset.

"And it is very difficult to get rid of," said mother Amber Tapscott. "My friend's child has been in a school where they've had episodes of head lice and it was horrific to get rid of."

A mom of three said she if familiar with lice because she used to teach in public schools.

"We have three boys in the household and yes it absolutely does, why?" Laurie Lincoln-Swaim. "Because the chemicals and things used to treat, I used to teach public school and so I'm familiar with head lice and just the chemicals to treat are harsh anyway."

According to Dr. Harris lice are still fairly easy to treat and get rid of as long as the treatments are done correctly.

And pediatricians say there are many myths accompanying a diagnosis.

"Some people think there is a hygiene issue. Or the families for which contact are quote en quote nasty or unkempt. But that, in fact, is not true," added Young-Harkins.

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