300 students affected in lice outbreak

By Randi Nissenbaum, Reporter
Last Updated: Monday, March 23, 2015, 9:02 PM EDT

A lice outbreak at Bayshore Elementary School in Manatee County is keeping dozens of kids out of class.

The school district says extra medical staff will be on hand until the outbreak is cleaned up.

Bayshore Elementary recently has had a significant increase in lice and/or nits cases. According to the school districts health services specialist, 300 students were affected.

Phyllis Johnson’s daughter, Tyjanay, is in 5th grade at Bayshore and says she is not surprised that lice can spread that fast.

“They hang on each other. They whisper in eachother’s ears. They’re friends! So they are in close quarters they don’t know,” said Johnson.

Last week Bayshore’s principal sent out a letter to parents with information about lice and what to look for.

“They are giving us the information. It’s just our job as parents to do something about it,” she said.

The school has had so many cases school nurses from other schools were called to help Bayshore conduct head checks and call parents.

“I feel like they are doing their best to contain it and help the parents get rid of it.”

Tyjanay Burrell, 11, said students in school are taking the matter seriously.

“When we come in we only shake our hands. We don’t hug as much because they are scared that something might happen,” Burrell said.

Wesley Hardin, a physician’s assistant with Maxhealth Pediatrics in Bradenton, says that taking precautions is a good thing. While lice do not carry or transmit any diseases, the scratching of the scalp can lead to other problems.

“Sometimes people can get secondary infections from the lice causing entry into the skin. Any time the skin barriers compromised bacteria can sneak in and make a secondary infection,” Hardin said.

Health officials warn parents to only use over- the- counter lice shampoos and not try any home remedies that could be potentially dangerous. The school's health services specialist says since last week the number of cases is declining and school custodians have been doing extra cleaning.

Symptoms of head lice

  • A tickling feeling of something moving in the hair;
  • Itching, caused by allergic reaction to the bites of the head louse;
  • Irritability and difficulty sleeping, as head lice are most active in the dark;
  • Sores on the head caused by scratching, which sometimes may become infected with bacteria found on the person's skin.

How to diagnose head lice

The most effective way to diagnose head lice is by finding a live nymph or adult louse on the scalp or hair of a person. Lice are small and fast-moving, so the use of a fine-toothed comb and a magnifying lens may be helpful.

The presence of nits, which are lice eggs, can also be used for diagnosis. Nits can be found firmly attached near the base of the hair shaft. They are oval shaped and very small.

If the presence of lice is confirmed, take the following steps to treat the person who is infested:

  1. Remove the person's clothing.
  2. Apply the lice medicine according to the instructions contained on the box. The medicine, which is also called pediculicide, can be obtained over the counter or with a prescription.  Note: long hair may require a second bottle.
  3. Have the infested person put on clean clothing after treatment.
  4. If a few live lice are found 8-12 hours after treatment but are moving more slowly, wait a little longer, as the medicine may take longer to kill all the lice.  Comb the dead and any remaining live lice out of the hair using a fine-toothed nit comb.
  5. If after 8-12 hours, no dead lice are found and the live lice are as active as before, contact your health care provider to get a different medicine.
  6. After each treatment, check the hair and comb through with a nit comb to remove nits and lice every 2-3 days. This may decrease the chance of reinfestation.  Continue to check for 2-3 weeks.
  7. Some drugs may require re-treatment, either a week after the first treatment or for others only if crawling lice are seen during this period.  Check your medication's instructions.

Head lice myths

  • Poor personal hygiene causes head lice. False.
  • Lice are spread due to close contact with the hair of an infected person. Don't share clothing such as hats or scarves and don't share combs or hairbrushes.
  • Head lice spread disease. False.
  • Head lice are annoying but do not carry disease.
  • Water can kill head lice. False.
  • Lice can survive underwater for several hours. Chlorine does not kill the lice. It is recommended that children not share towels for this reason.