Head louse infestations: epidemiologic survey and treatment evaluation in Argentinian schoolchildren

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:1997
Authors:E. Chouela, Abeldano, A., Cirigliano, M., Ducard, M., Neglia, V., La Forgia, M., Colombo, A.
Journal:International journal of dermatology
Pagination:819 - 825
Date Published:1997
ISBN Number:0011-9059
Keywords:adolescent, adult, animals, Argentina, child, Child, Preschool, Comparative Study, evaluation, Housing, humans, Lice Infestations/epidemiology/prevention & control/therapy, Middle Aged, Parents, Pediculus, prevalence, scalp dermatoses, Skin Diseases/etiology/parasitology, Socioeconomic Factors, Time Factors, Treatment Outcome, water

BACKGROUND: Our aim was to demonstrate that the treatment of individual cases is effective, but not sufficient, to control endemic Pediculus capitis, and that eradication of the epidemiologic school focus may lower significantly the prevalence of infestation. Statistical data on the degree of infestation relating to socio-economic and cultural variables were also updated. Therapeutic effects and educational impact were evaluated. METHODS: An educational and motivational program was designed for pupils, parents, and teachers: 326 children and 15 adults were subjected to clinical and parasitologic evaluation. The recorded parameters included the age, sex, hair style and length, presence of other dermatologic diseases, degree of infestation, clinical remission, parasitologic remission, dwelling type and features, need to share a bed with co-dwellers, availability of home tap water supply, level of family income, and periodic medical controls. The entire population received treatment with neutral shampoo and rinsing cream containing 1% permethrin. Exclusion criteria were the presence of acute scalp inflammation and a history of pyrethrin and/or pyrethroid sensitivity. Statistical analysis was performed as required on data expressed as frequencies, percentages, means, and standard deviations by chi-square and Fisher exact tests. RESULTS: The overall infestation prevalence rate was 81.5%, the highest values corresponding to children from 6 to 11 years of age, with a slight predominance in males (55.4% vs. 44.6%). A significantly greater rate of clinical remission was observed in subjects enjoying home tap water supplies (p < 0.01). CONCLUSIONS: The model of research plus action adopted allows the following conclusions to be drawn: (i) individual and isolated treatments for pediculosis are useful, but will not by themselves allow for the epidemiologic control of this parasitosis; (ii) massive, complete, and simultaneous treatments lead to a significant decrease in infestation prevalence; (iii) educational measures tending to foster collective awareness enable greater epidemiologic surveillance to be achieved; (iv) careful inspection of the entire scalp is essential with the use of a powerful light source and lenses with high magnification, as the parasite has no predilection for any given area; (iv) socio-economic and cultural conditions are not relevant for infestation, although a good home tap water supply is essential for treatment.

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