SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — There’s an Internet infestation of lice lately. First, the attack of mutant super lice — bugs resistant to traditional methods of treatment — scared the daylights out of parents. Now, selfie lice have crawled onto the list of things to worry about.
It all started when a doctor in the Midwest blamed selfies for a surge in the cases of head lice among teens. The idea is that teens posing for selfies press their heads together and, in doing so, are sharing their head lice along with the photo — hence the term selfie lice. A louse could crawl from one head to the other faster than kids can say “cheese.”
“Teenagers don’t usually get lice because they’re not sharing hats and things like that,” said Wisconsin pediatrician Dr. Sharon Rink in a back-to-school story on a local television show. “And lice can’t jump, so the only way they can transmit lice is touching their heads together, and that’s happening with all these photos.”
“People are doing selfies like every day, as opposed to going to photo booths years and years ago. So you’re probably having much more contact with other people’s heads,” she said.
Dr. Rink’s warning set off a itching frenzy that was echoed in articles across the Internet. The Daily Mail in the UK actually conflated the two phenomena with the headline, “Selfies are causing a rise in MUTANT head lice: Expert warns trend for touching heads in pictures is to blame for increase in treatment resistant nits.”
So, here’s the bad news. Super mutant lice do exist.
The good news? Selfies are an unlikely culprit when it comes to the current rise in super mutant lice cases. The National Pediculosis Association told the Huffington Post there is no current data linking them to the current outbreak in 25 states. Furthermore, lice don’t hop, they crawl. Two or more teens would have to strike a pose for a long while to give a louse enough time to travel from one head to another. It’s possible, but highly unlikely.
Time Magazine suggests the current furor over teen head lice may just be a marketing scheme for de-lousing salons “to alert the public to a new population of hosts for the ever-hungry louse.”
CBSSF.com writer, producer Jan Mabry is also executive producer and host of The Bronze Report. She lives in Northern California. Follow her on Twitter @janmabr.