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Sample from Vanessa's head.

Mol spoke slow... kinda professor-like! I'd never heard him this serious before - nor as informed. He said: "Look here, this is the sample from Vanessa's head. You can see the head-lice running up and down her hair." 


 "And here... same sample", he said, standing out of the way so I could look for meself. 

As I peered at the lice, he carried on talking - as if to guide my observations. "Watch how they move, especially the legs. Notice how the legs are jointed so that they appear to form a 'u' shape with the sides of the 'u' pointing towards their heads!" 


Same sample from Vanessa's head.
Sample from pubic area and underwear  
"Now take a look at these", he said - switching the samples under the microscope and zooming in closer for me."  
These were taken from Vanessa pubic hair and her underwear. Notice any difference?" 

"Sure... ", I told him - "their bodies are fatter, kinda wider!" 

"Correct! But more...", he challenged me. "Look at their legs. Can you see they are more poised. Look at the rear legs especially. They are jointed to form an upside-down  'u' with the sides of the 'u' pointing back towards the rear." 

I could see what he meant.  We were dealing with two different types of lice! I only knew about hair-lice (or as some people say - head lice), so I reckoned the other ones were 'crabs' or pubic lice... which made me kinda angry that some no-good creep had taken advantage of my Van while she was drunk and ill. 

"Crabs..!", I blurted out. 

Mol smiled. "No.. not pubic lice, Larry - something much more sinister. Find me that book I gave you from John Wells a year ago when you were trying to sort out the head lice problem. I think we're not just dealing here with head lice (Pediculus capitis) but an additional and more dangerous form: Body Lice - or more precisely - Pediculus corporis... a vector of Typhus and Trench fever. 

I got the book and found the reference to human lice:- 

The lice we found on Vanessa were the HEAD LOUSE  and the BODY LOUSE. These are not actually different species of human lice. They can cross-breed with each other.  
We read through the definite text. The book was written aeons ago around the 1930's - when researchers had time to get proper results and make detailed observations without  those pressures on such professionals today to hit deadlines and money targets. This then is a summary of what we found out:- 

Head Louse 
The head louse feeds frequently, discharging large amounts of excreta which stick to the hairs. Adults live for about 30 days. Mainly spread by contact with the head of a lousy person. Egg-laying begins about 24-36 hours after the adult stage is reached and from 3-9 eggs are laid each day. Up to 300 eggs may be laid by one adult during its lifetime. 

Body Louse 
Egg laying cycle - same as head louse.  Eggs laid on clothes, especially woolly material. Eggs hatch in 5 - 12 days. Larva form into 1st nymph in 2 - 4 days, and 2nd nymph in 3 - 6 days. Therefore 1 louse egg can develop into an egg-laying louse in 16 days. Larva feed immediately on emerging from egg. 

Body lice tend to wander from an infested person's under-garments to their external clothing. Momentary brushing against an infested person is all that is required for the wandering louse to transfer to a new host. 

Pubic Louse 
Found mainly in the pubic and peri-anal regions. Legs adapted structurally for clinging to widely separated hairs. May spread to the abdomen. Pubic lice have also been recorded living in beards and on eyelashes. Larva differ in their feeding habits from head and body lice: they stay at the same spot without removing their mouth-parts. 

Lice and Disease
We skipped over a lot of stuff which you can see by going to 'solutions' in the index at the foot of this page. Mol and I found and read the text on lice-borne disease - which is what we were really interested in. It said:-  

Body lice and head lice can be vectors of Typhus, Trench Fever, and Relapsing Fever. Pubic lice are not thought to be disease vectors and are not known to transmit any parasite to man. 

Typhus Fever (summary) 
Incubation period 9 - 20 days. Rickettsia prowazeki, a micro-organism living in lice tissue,  is believed to be the casual organism which is thought to be transferred to humans either through bite or by faeces of the louse. There is a stronger case for the body louse rather than the head louse being the main vector of the disease. 

Apart from sporadic cases in ports, Typhus has practically disappeared from the UK. War, poverty, and dirt favour its spread. 

Trench Fever (summary) 
A milder form of Typhus, first identified during the First World War. Characterised by much pain in the shins along with the symptoms described for Typhus. Different studies dispute whether or not the disease is spread by bite or by faeces of body lice. 

Symptoms of these diseases 
Onset very abrupt with chills, pains in the back and legs, severe headache, nausea, vomiting, and high temperature. In early stage, patient is prostrated but cannot sleep. After 4 days, patient becomes delirious, and a rash appears - starting in the armpits and wrists and spreading to the chest, abdomen, and then to the limbs. It is mottled and dusky with spots of irregular size and shape. Hiccup may develop and it is a grave sign! In unfavourable cases, death may occur during coma. In other cases, the infected person goes through a crisis in around 14 days and after sleeping awakes very weak but relieved of the symptoms. In some epidemics, the disease tends to be mild - in others it is fatal in 2 to 3 days! Treatment: antibiotics. 

We read no more. Although it had seemed unlikely that Vanessa had contracted one of theses diseases, Mol had suspected the possibility. The presence of body lice - quite rare these days in the UK - and the rash, and temperature all conformed to the diagnoses of lice-borne disease. 

We phoned a Doctor who confirmed our suspicions and we were all promptly whisked off to the hospital. 

What happened then?

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