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Expert Debunks Claim that “Selfies” are Spreading Head Lice

Update Date: Feb 26, 2014 11:19 AM EST

This past Monday, children and teenagers were warned that taking pictures of oneself with friends, which is known as the "selfie," could be spreading head lice. The lice expert, Marcy McQuillan from Scotts Valley in California stated that she has witnessed a "huge increase" in head lice cases in teenagers. Head lice are typically more common in young elementary school children. McQuillan believes that the "selfie" trend could be the culprit.

"I've seen a huge increase of lice in teens this year. Typically it's younger children I treat, because they're at higher risk for head-to-head contact. But now, teens are sticking their heads together every day to take cell phone pics," explained Marcy McQuillan according to SFist.

Despite McQuillan's concerns, one expert is reporting that selfies are most likely not spreading head lice among teens and young adults. The experts stated that based on estimations compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly six to 12 million lice infections occur within the U.S. per year for the age group of three to 11. Teenagers rarely get infested with lice. Since concrete data on the exact number of head lice cases is not available, McQuillan's claim that there was a huge increase in head lice cases for teenagers is not reliable.

"This is a marketing ploy, pure and simple," Dr. Richard J. Pollack, who teaches at the Harvard School of Public Health and runs a pest identification business called IdentifyUS, said according to NBC News. "Wherever these louse salons open a new branch, there always seems to be an epidemic. It's good for business. I'm trying to prevent people from over-treating. People should not be using insecticides on their kids unless there really is a reason to use them."

According to Pollack, lice are typically spread during "direct and prolonged head-to-head contact." Even though taking a selfie does involve direct contact, the likelihood that lice will spread during the short time frame of taking one picture is very low.

 "We've always heard of older kids getting it, particularly when there are younger siblings bringing it home or outbreaks in college dorms," Deborah Altschuler of The National Pediculosis Association, an organization that advocates against pesticide treatments for lice, added reported by HuffPost. "It's not new and it's not alarming. It just happens."

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