Head lice prevalence in primary schools in Victoria, Australia

Counahan, M., Andrews, R., Buttner, P., Byrnes, G., and Speare, R. (2004) Head lice prevalence in primary schools in Victoria, Australia. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 40 (11). pp. 616-619.

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Objectives: To determine the prevalence of and assess risk factors associated with head lice infections (pediculosis) in children from government primary schools in Victoria, Australia.

Methods: Between May and October 2001, children were selected by clustered random sampling of schools and classes, then examined for head lice using hair conditioner and a fine-toothed head lice comb. There were 1838 children screened from 16 primary schools. Risk factors evaluated included metropolitan or rural residence, school class, gender and hair length.

Results: Thirteen percent of children (239/1838) had an active infection (95% CI, 10.9−15.1) and 3.3% (61/1838) had an inactive infection (95% CI, 2.0−4.6). Prevalence of active pediculosis varied between schools from 0 to 28%. Our screening identified no more than one case per class in the majority of classes screened (58.5%). Females were 2.2 times more likely to have active infection than males (95% CI [1.7,2.9]) and there was no significant difference for the other risk factors investigated.

Conclusions: Our study demonstrated the prevalence of head lice varied across Victoria and showed that risk factors commonly attributed to head lice infections did not hold true. Our findings support the premise that traditional ad hoc mass school-based screening may not be the best use of resources when controlling head lice. We suggest a more pragmatic community-based approach.

Item ID: 6648
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1440-1754
Keywords: head lice; pediculosis; risk factors; school children; prevalence study
Date Deposited: 07 Feb 2010 23:16
FoR Codes: 11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1103 Clinical Sciences > 110309 Infectious Diseases @ 50%
11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111799 Public Health and Health Services not elsewhere classified @ 50%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9201 Clinical Health (Organs, Diseases and Abnormal Conditions) > 920109 Infectious Diseases @ 50%
92 HEALTH > 9204 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) > 920404 Disease Distribution and Transmission (incl. Surveillance and Response) @ 40%
92 HEALTH > 9205 Specific Population Health (excl. Indigenous Health) > 920501 Child Health @ 10%
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