Selfies could be a factor in spreading lice


Langara students taking group selfies are not starting a lice epidemic, but local experts say it is a possible way to spread an infestation.

The head-to-head contact lice transfer may be happening more frequently due to young adults sharing electronic screens, according to Californian lice expert Marcy McQuillan. So far, experts in Vancouver, including Langara community health nurse Susan Kensett, said they have not seen a significant increase of lice in teenagers or young adults.

Dacia Jovanovic, a public health nurse at Vancouver Coastal Health, said lice outbreaks and related statistics are not recorded because lice do not carry disease. Jovanovic said typically more cases of lice are seen in elementary students from exchanging hats or playing dress up.

“In terms of high school [students], it’s not something that we get the call for very often,” she said.

Selfies linked to spreading lice? 

If an infestation is high enough, a quick hug or a few moments to snap some photos with someone is enough time to transfer lice, according to Darlene Miller, owner of the Greater Vancouver Lice Clinic. She said a sense of body consciousness in high school students might be one reason there are less cases of lice in teenagers.

Miller said group selfies are not causing an increase in lice with teenage or college students, however, more young boys in particular may be getting lice from gathering around hand-held games.

“Younger people are in closer head-to-head contact because a lot of them are sharing, looking at an iPod or an iPhone, “ Miller said.

Clockwise from top: Simon Ly, Lauren Stone, Tony Kim, and Ridley Wallace (in the film arts program) pose for a group selfie.

How does the infestation travel? 

Lice travel along the hair shaft and while they cannot jump or fly, they only need a short time to transfer from one person’s hair to the next. She said lice in older students is not common and can often be tracked back to younger siblings.

Kim Smart, a nursing student, said she has never heard of someone in college having lice.

General studies student Georgia Larden said if someone has lice they should be responsible for protecting the people around them.

“If somebody knew that they had lice and they were rubbing their head on me, I’d be so angry,” she said.

Reported by Renee Sutton  


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