Surprising as it may seem, selfies are not completely harmless. In fact, the very popular activity might be the cause behind the rise in head lice infestation.
The new phenomenon even has a name – it is called “social media lice”. According to Dr. Sharon Rink, who came up with this name, when people bump heads to take a selfie, they are exposed to head lice.
“Teenagers don’t usually get lice because they’re not sharing hats and things like that. 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,” she said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that there are up to 12 million children whose ages vary between 3 and 11 who are affected by lice in the United States every year.
Some experts, such as Marcy McQuillan, who is the chief of two Nitless Noggins lice-treatment centers in California, say that the head lice infestation is on the rise.
However, other professionals, such as Katie Shepherd, who is the founder of the Shepherd Institute for Lice Solutions, say that the problem lies in the inefficiency of various treatment products. There are new species of lice that are extremely resistant to the most popular treatments.
Research has found that head lice eggs are affected in the same way by special products as they are by regular hair conditioner. This is mainly because lice eggs are difficult to remove due to the fact that they are usually lain onto strands of hair. Moreover, the female lice makes sure they are well glued on the strand, which makes them more difficult to eliminate.
The Belgian researchers who tested some treatment products did not find important differences between hair conditioner and nit-removal products.
Nevertheless, the most worrying part is that lice seem to have suffered mutations, which makes them even more resistant to treatment, especially to permethrin, which is a very popular ingredient, found in most remedies against the parasite.
American researchers found such mutations in at least 25 states, where the lice were not likely to be killed with ordinary products.
“What we found was that 104 out of the 109 lice populations we tested had high levels of gene mutations, which have been linked to resistance to pyrethroids,” said Dr. Kyong Yoon from the Southern Illionois University.
Pyrethroids are types of insecticides that are also used against mosquitoes and they contain permethrin. Dr. Yoon stated that he collected lice from 30 states and found three genetic mutations in lice from 25 states. These mutations made the lice almost immune to pyrethroids.
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