Are selfies responsible for the spread of head lice?

Male human head louse Image by GILLES SAN MARTIN/FLICKR

Are selfies responsible for the spread of head lice?

By Joyce Lupiani. CREATED Feb 26, 2014

Most of us have taken a selfie. The word selfie was named Oxford's word of the year for 2013 and even the Pope and President Obama have done it. But could selfies lead to head lice?

The suggestion that the spread of head lice in schools could be attributed to selfies started with a woman in California who runs two Nitless Noggins lice-treatment centers in the state.

Mary McQuillan says she has seen an increase because of group selfies, which involve people putting their heads together in order to fit into a photograph. Lice don't jump or fly, so it is the head-to-head contact, according to her, that is causing the bugs to spread.

Some doctors and other lice-control experts say it is possible. Physical contact with an infected person or something that has been in contact with their hair such as a towel or comb is the only way that the lice can spread.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 12 million lice infestations occur each year. Most cases occur in children under the age of 12.

Doctors at the University of Southern California's School of Dermatology are questioning the claim though. They say it is unlikely that the time it takes to snap a selfie is long enough for the bugs to move head-to-head.

So far, there has been no conclusive proof that selfies could lead to head lice.

Joyce Lupiani

Joyce Lupiani

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Joyce Lupiani, who is based in Las Vegas at KTNV-TV Channel 13, is a contributor to