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Pubic Lice: An Overview

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Updated February 03, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

If you've ever lived in a dormitory, or any other environment packed with randy young adults, you probably know someone who has had crabs. Crabs, Pediculosis pubis, or pubic lice are to college students what head lice is to kindergarteners. However, although head lice have been known to spread by an exchange of hats, pubic lice almost always require close personal contact. It is possible to acquire pubic crabs from infested sheets, towels, or clothing, but pubic lice don't live long off the body, and, contrary to rumor, you won't get them from a toilet seat.

Humans are actually the only species known to have not one but three species of lice that infest their bodies. Why are we so lucky? Because the hair on our head, our bodies, and on our genitals are different enough to warrant different invaders. Crabs -- the lice that infest pubic hair -- are actually an entirely different species than the head lice that infest the scalp, or the body lice that infest the body. However, they all make us itch.

For More Information About Pubic Lice/Crabs:

Sources:

CDC Pubic Lice Fact Sheet. http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dpd/parasites/lice/factsht_pubic_lice.htm Accessed 5/31/07.

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