A review of the epidemiology, public health importance, treatment and control of head lice.
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Head lice are cosmopolitan and endemic. While they are not responsible for the spread of any disease, they are the cause of considerable social distress. They can infest anybody and do not discriminate between class or cleanliness. Head lice are transmitted primarily by direct contact. The only satisfactory method to clear an infestation is by chemical treatment. The most effective pediculicides to date are those which contain permethrin (Nix) or malathion (Prioderm). Compliance with product instructions eliminates the need for nit removal after treatment. Treatment of inanimate objects and the environment should be discouraged. To obtain effective control of head lice, the whole community needs to be involved. Parents must be encouraged to screen themselves and their children regularly in the home, and to treat themselves only when necessary.
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