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How Is Lice Spread?

How is lice spread? There are several ways of spreading head lice, body lice, or pubic lice. Direct contact with an infested person, contact with the clothes or bedding of an infested person, or sexual contact with an infested person are some of the ways that lice is spread. However, it is important to note that pets and other animals cannot spread lice to humans.

An Overview of Lice Transmission

Lice are tiny, wingless parasitic insects. They live for about a month and require blood in order to survive. Without blood meals, they die within a few days (body lice can survive up to 10 days without a blood meal).
There are three types of lice that infest humans:
  • Pediculus humanus capitis (head lice)
  • Pediculus humanus corporis (body lice)
  • Phthirus pubis (pubic lice or crab lice; also called crabs).
How lice are spread will vary based on the type of lice. One thing that is common among all three types of lice is that pets or other animals cannot spread lice.

Head Lice Transmission

Contact with an already infested person is the most common way that transmission of head lice occurs. Head-to-head contact is common during play at school and at home (during sports activities, on a playground, at slumber parties, at camp, etc.).
Head lice are also commonly spread by:
  • Lying on a bed, couch, pillow, carpet, or stuffed animal that has recently been in contact with an infested person
  • Using infested combs, brushes, or towels
  • Wearing clothing, such as hats, scarves, coats, sports uniforms, or hair ribbons, recently worn by an infested person.
Transmission of head lice does not occur because someone is dirty. Head lice cannot be transmitted from any animals.
(Click Transmission of Head Lice for more information.)
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Information on Lice

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