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Body lice are small, wingless insects found on the clothing and body of an infested person. They can be transmitted through contact with an infested person's clothing or bedding, as well as by skin-to-skin contact. The most common symptom of an infestation is frequent, intense itching. Body lice are usually treated by laundering or throwing away the infested person's clothing and bedding. In some situations, medication may also be required.
Also called Pediculus humanus corporis, body lice are small, wingless insects found on clothing and the body of infested people. A body louse (body lice is plural) has three pairs of legs located directly behind the body. The legs end in sharp claws that are designed for feeding and allow the louse to hold on tightly to clothing or hair.
When a person is infested with lice (whether it is body lice, head lice, or pubic lice), the condition is known as pediculosis. However, body lice are not the same as head lice. Lice found on the hair and head are caused by an infestation with another parasite known as Pediculus humanus capitis.
Anyone can get body lice. Such infestations are common and are found worldwide, affecting people of all races. These infestations spread rapidly under crowded conditions where hygiene is poor and where there is frequent contact among people.
In the United States and other developed countries, body lice are found mainly in homeless, transient populations who don't have regular access to baths or changes of clothes. Infestation is unlikely to persist on anyone who bathes regularly and who has regular access to freshly laundered clothing and bedding.
(Click Causes of Body Lice for more information.)