In news that will surely make your head itch, 25 states are reporting a case of “super lice” in an outbreak that was predicted years ago.
The common and most widely used treatment for head lice has for years been a substance called Pyrethroids, United Press International reported.
The treatment was highly effective, decimating lice without mercy at a rate of 100 percent. But today, it’s nearly useless. To parents’ consternation, the formerly reliable Pyrethroids now only work 25 percent of the time.
According to Medical Daily, scientists called this outbreak years ago when they reported that head lice were evolving a resistance to the chemical found in most over-the-counter lice medications.
Both demonologists and pediatricians sounded alarm bells, heralding the inevitability of a super lice outbreak, back in 2013. The American Chemical Society last August confirmed that American lice were gradually evolving the resistance.
And now, they’ve done it. They’ve grown their anti-pyrethroids muscles and are fighting off parents’ efforts to rid their kids of super lice as the outbreak spreads through the entire country.
— HuffPost Living (@HealthyLiving) March 3, 2016
Here is a regional breakdown of where the drug-resistant super lice have been found.
- In the West: California, Washington, Arizona, and Texas.
- In the Midwest: Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.
- In the South: Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, the Carolinas, and Virginia
- In the Northeast: Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
Every year, six to 12 million kids aged 3 to 12 get head lice, but anyone can be infested with the little bugs. Children are simply more likely to have close physical contact, through playing and the like. The insects are considered parasites, and they make their home among human hair, feeding on blood it sucks from the scalp, Tech Times explained.
Under normal circumstances, it’s hard to get rid of and very contagious. Super lice are even worse.
However, there is hope to stymie this outbreak. The Food and Drug Administration has just approved a new and very effective treatment called AirAlle. The CEO of Lice Clinics of America, Claire Roberts, explained how it works.
“We use heated air, and we dehydrate the lice and the eggs in a single treatment. It takes about an hour, and we guarantee it.”
Unfortunately, it’ll cost $170 dollars to rid your child of super lice, but it’s covered by some insurance companies. And there’s still a 25 percent chance the old stuff will still work.
— WNDU (@WNDU) January 19, 2016
But parents may need to employ tried-and-true methods to keep the super lice outbreak at bay. Prevention is still the number one way to get rid of lice: kids shouldn’t share combs, brushes, hats, or anything that comes near their heads, and they shouldn’t share the spaces where these things are stored. They should also avoid playing too close together.
And if they do contract super lice, picking through the child’s hair to pluck out the insects still works. People should also vacuum wherever infested hair has fallen, wash bedding in hot water, and heating clothing and stuffed animals in a dryer for 20 minutes.
Kids also should avoid touching their heads. In an interesting bit of research, scientists have linked the outbreak of lice, not just of the super variety, to the rise of social media.
The culprit is selfies, said pediatrician Dr. Sharon Rink.
“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. 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.”
[Image via frechtoch/Shutterstock]