Ectoparasites

^^ Head lice (Pediculus capitis)

The head louse is an insect found on the human scalp. It obtains its nourishment by piercing the skin and sucking blood. The adult female is slightly larger than the male, about 2 mm-3 mm long and 1 mm wide. The female lays white, shiny oval-shaped eggs called nits; they are cemented to the hair close to the scalp. They take approximately 1 week to mature and can reproduce in another week. The life cycle of a louse lasts for 4-5 weeks during which time the female will lay around 300 eggs. They cause intense itching, and secondary infections may result due to scratching. Lice and nits may be killed by special shampoos or lotions containing insecticide and combing out with a fine tooth comb.

Body lice (Pediculus corporis)

These are similar to but larger than head lice. They obtain nutrients by sucking blood and laying eggs in underclothing. The crab louse is smaller and is found in pubic and underarm hair. Treatment is by insecticidal shampoo, and clothing, towels, etc. that have been in contact must be washed in insecticidal soap and boil-washed.

Itch mites (Sarcoptes scabies)

This is a tiny animal that burrows into the skin producing a condition called scabies. It has 8 legs and is around 0.3 mm long and 0.2 mm wide. The fertilised female burrows into the skin forming dark lines about 1 cm long. She lays around 60 eggs in the burrows, which hatch in 4-8 days. The burrows are seen between the fingers, on the front of the wrists, forearms or may be on male genitalia. They cause intense irritation, vesicles, papules and pustules. They are easily passed from person to person. Medical opinion should be sought and any clothing, towels etc that have come into contact with such a client must be burned.

Fleas

The flea is an insect with 3 pairs of legs that enable it to jump long distances from host to host. It obtains nourishment by biting and sucking the blood of the host. The bites cause red spots usually found in groups; they are intensely itchy.

Figure 1.12 Body louse.

Fleas lay eggs in dust, carpets or furniture. They can be eliminated by spraying with insecticides, washing clothing and bedding and thorough cleaning of soft furnishings. The flea was responsible for carrying the plague.

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