• Deborah Z. Altschuler

Oh, the stuff you can appreciate from head lice

"As public health officials develop guidelines for these challenging times of COVID-19, the NPA wants to minimize head lice as a public health burden when children return to school." The National Pediculosis Association Calls for A Critical Review of the Centers for Disease Control's Website Information on Lice. See press release: https://www.headlice.org/comb/the-national-pediculosis-association-calls-for-a-critical-review-of-the-centers-for-disease-controls-website-information-on-lice/

It's challenging to talk about head lice during times of COVID-19 because it's difficult for people to look beyond the bug, the chuckles, the "I remember when I had lice" stories and all the predictable reactions like "just talking about it makes me want to scratch my head." Truth is, these

6-legged creatures do yeoman service by reminding us of our vulnerability to communicable diseases as well as the health risks associated with the use of pesticides and other chemical treatments for them.

Head lice are great teachers. And as I have often said, they are also Mother Nature's finest and tiniest epidemiologists. They tell us when our public health guard is down and who is at risk. There are consequences to the relaxed and more recent short-sighted laissez-faire school policies on head lice, now better described as classroom attendance policies. Looking the other way on head lice is looking the other way on protecting child health and wellness. Changing school policy does not change the biology of the louse.

Today's relaxed school policies on lice are a deficient public health model for setting high standards, building trust, and earning confidence from parents and children in preparation for more threatening communicable diseases when they come along. The good news on managing head lice as the communicable disease it is in its own right -- is that there is considerable opportunity and measurable reward for doing better. It can begin with CDC providing accurate, helpful and reliable information for parents.

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