‘Super lice’ could be waiting as kids head back to school
LITTLETON, Colo. — When students across the metro area return to school after summer vacation, there may be something unexpected waiting for them: super lice.
It’s a type of head lice resistant to medication that’s supposed to kill it.
“You could feel a bite, you can feel it when they’re biting you.” June Langas and her family know all about super lice. She got lice from her 7-year-old twin daughters who brought it home from Coronado Elementary school in Jefferson County.
They are not alone, FOX31 Denver confirmed more than a dozen students and a teacher at their school all contracted the highly contagious condition in May, just before school got out for the summer.
“You feel like you’re going insane,” Langas said.
The Jefferson County mother doesn’t believe the district did enough to warn parents when the first case was discovered.
Langas received a generic letter from the principal that said “your student has been screened…for head lice or lice nits.”
But it never mentioned a girl in her daughter’s class was sent home because she was infested with lice or that the district allows children with nits, or lice eggs, to stay in school.
Langas believes Jefferson County’s policy led to a lice outbreak that could have been prevented.
What’s worse, Langas said, is the medication that was supposed to kill the lice didn’t work.
Denver Doctor, Lee Moorer told us research shows lice has become a “super bug,” which means they fend off most pesticides, “currently they are resistant to over-the-counter medications that are available to everyone to treat this.”
Moorer said there are stronger prescription medications available but because they contain toxic ingredients, they are not recommended for children. “You are talking about medications that are just like DDT.”
The doctor, who is also a father, doesn’t understand why a child with lice eggs would be allowed to potentially spread super lice to other students. “In eight or nine days the bugs hatch and you have a whole new colony of bugs living in your hair.”
But Linda Buzard, Jefferson County’s Director of Health Services, defends the policy, “Nits can hatch but the American Society of Pediatrics says nits alone are not a reason to exclude children from school.”
She said health care privacy laws, known as HIPPA, prevented the school from being more specific in their letter to parents. “We are very concerned about confidentiality of students and their health information, so parents are alerted their child was checked for head lice today and it’s really just an observation.”
Buzard told us lice is not a health concern, “Lice are a nuisance. They’re a pest, they are an insect pest really, and they are not a health hazard.”
To that, Langas said, “When the district nurse told me it was just a nuisance, I felt like you obviously have never had this yourself.”
She worries the super lice will return when classes resume.
Lice can only live for about 30 days but they are always laying eggs. They can only live off their human host for 1 – 2 days, that is why the school district said they aren’t doing anything more than their usual cleaning inside the classrooms that were affected.
Langas said it took four months for her family to get rid of the super lice and the nits.
In the end, the over-the-counter medication didn’t work, but she said good old-fashioned vinegar did.