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Lice Lice are small, wingless insects that live on birds and mammals. One species in particular, the human louse, thrives in filthy and overcrowded conditions. They multiply quickly, jumping from person to person, from clothing to clothing, with ease. Some of these parasites carry typhus and other diseases. There are three different kinds of louse that like to live on humans: head lice, body lice, and pubic lice. Of these, only body lice carry disease. Lice have narrow heads and oval-shaped, flat bodies. Most lice, with the exception of human body lice, are extremely devoted, living on one host for the duration of their lives. Their mouthparts are extremely well suited for feeding exclusively on blood. Those parts pierce the skin, transmitting a substance through their saliva that clots blood. Body lice have been terrorizing humans for millions of years, moving with us as we migrated around the globe. Body lice transmit parasites that cause a variety of diseases, including typhus, trench fever, and relapsing fever, a disease categorized by periodic bouts of fevers. Thousands of body lice can live on one person, and each louse can bite its host up to five times a day. The insects thrive in unsanitary conditions. During World War I (1914–1918), for example, soldiers living and fighting in squalid, rat-infested trenches suffered continuous infestations, giving rise to “trench fever,” a disease marked by a high body temperature, headaches, eye pain, and muscles soreness, especially in the legs and the back. Typhus, caused by the bacterium Scientific Name: Pediculus humanus Range: Worldwide Life Span: 30 days Danger: Diseases such as typhus Body Lice

Rickettsia prowazekii, is another disease transmitted by body lice. Typhus epidemics

The Ultimate Book of Dangerous Insects


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