Bedbugs are parasites of humans that feed on blood by biting through the skin. They are reddish brown in colour, wingless and shaped like an oval, which is similar to how other human parasites that live on the skin appear. Other bugs that look like bedbugs include head and body lice (Pediculus humanus and Pediculus humanus corporis) and scabies (Sarcoptes scabiei).
Pediculus humanus, more commonly known as head lice, commonly affects children in school. Symptoms of infection include intense itching of the scalp, similar to that of a bed bug bite on the scalp. According to the Mayo Clinic, the adult lice are similar in size to bed bugs, about the size of a strawberry seed and up to 1/8th of an inch long. They are also reddish brown in colour. Unlike bed bugs, lice travel around attached to human hairs, especially at the nape of the neck and behind the ears. Head lice are most often spread by head-to-head contact. Less common modes of transmission between individuals includes sharing of hats, clothing, combs or brushes, barrettes and headphones. In addition, head lice can spread through furnishings such as chairs, couches, beds, towels, blankets and pillows.
Pediculus Humanus Corporis
Pediculus humanis corporis, more commonly referred to as body lice, are a parasite that feed off human blood. Itching and a rash are the main symptoms of infection, similar to the symptoms of bed bug bites. They attach to the skin, often near where clothing seams are located. According to the Centers for Disease Control, body lice might also attach to body hair. Adult and juvenile body lice are similar in size to bed bugs and are sometimes tan to brownish in colour, resembling a brown sesame seed. In the United States, body lice usually only affect people who are unable to bathe or change their clothing frequently. Similarly to bed bugs, body lice spread to others through sharing of linens or clothing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that people who bathe at least once per week are unlikely to become infested with body lice.
Sarcoptes scabiei is the parasite that causes the infection scabies. Scabies are an itchy rash or itchy bumps on the skin that look like pimples. The Sarcoptes scabiei mites attach to the skin all over the body, and are reddish brown in colour and about 1/10th of an inch long, about the size of a nymph bedbug. Scabies spread to people through skin-to-skin and sexual contact. They can also spread through the sharing of linens or clothing, or in crowded conditions such as refugee camps or homeless shelters. According to the National Library of Medicine, nursing homes, hospitals and child care centres are common sources of scabies outbreaks. Scabies infections are treatable with prescription lotions. Clothing and linens worn by infected people require laundering in hot water and drying at the highest setting recommended for the clothing item.
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