Body lice are parasitic insects that live on clothing and bedding of infested people. They frequently lay their eggs on or near the seams of clothing. Body lice must feed on human blood and usually only move to the skin to feed, remaining on clothing or bedding at other times. Body lice exist worldwide and can infest people of all races.
Head lice and body lice look similar, but while head lice are 2-3 mm in length, body lice are 2-4 mm in length. Head lice do not transmit disease-causing pathogens. However, body lice can. Although the specific diseases are not presently reported in the United States, their introduction at some point is quite possible should body lice become sufficiently prevalent. Epidemics of typhus and louse-borne relapsing fever have been caused by body lice in regions where climate, poverty, and social customs or war and social upheaval prevent regular changes and laundering of clothing. Body lice vector the pathogens that cause relapsing fever, trench fever, endocarditis, chronic lymphadenopathy and epidemic typhus.
Head lice are not a sign of unsanitary living or neglect (although chronic head lice infestations can be), but body lice are a sign of inadequate sanitation, changes of clothing, and laundering.
If you find abandoned clothing or bedding and need to dispose of the items, consider using gloves, and a disposable apron. Carefully double bag the items, avoiding making contact with the items with your clothes or person.
For more information on body lice, please read: http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/lice/body/index.html