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Lice from selfies? Yuck, but possible, expert says

The thought of it is enough to make your skin crawl. Literally.

Still, just about everyone takes selfies, right? What else would we share on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram? Oscar host Ellen DeGeneres took a celebrity-packed, group selfie during Sunday night’s show. Even the president took one at Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

But maybe “Let’s take our picture!” should be followed by “Wait, do you have lice?” That’s because some medical professionals believe cases of head lice are on the rise due to more head-to-head contact among young people snapping pictures together.

Sheila Fassler has been a nurse for 28 years, including eight years spent as a school nurse. Just over three years ago, Fassler and her husband, who is a doctor, opened Pediatric Hair Solutions in Charlotte, N.C. Since then, the Fasslers have treated more than 4,000 patients, and Fassler says it’s not just young children getting lice. She’s now treating more teenagers and college students in seven clinics, the latest which just opened in Buckhead.

“Before, that age really wasn’t putting their heads together all that much,” Fassler said. “This is a trend. It’s new enough that there isn’t research out there.”

In the day of the smartphone, teens pose for pictures regularly, sometimes spreading the tiny bugs to each other. Fassler’s own teenage daughter and her high school cheerleading squad all had lice two years ago, and the girls’ habit of leaning in close together was the only explanation that made sense, she said.

But at least one doctor says he’s not so convinced of the increase in lice due to selfies.

“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, told NBC News. “Wherever these louse salons open a new branch, there always seems to be an epidemic. It’s good for business. “

Head lice is spread most commonly by head-to-head contact, according to Atlanta’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The parasitic insects can be found on the head, eyebrows and eyelashes of people, and live close to the human scalp, the CDC says.

The most common sign of head lice? The itching. And you’ll need to use a special over-the-counter or prescription medication to get rid of the pesky bugs to avoid passing them on to someone else. Fassler’s clinics offer a chemical-free method with a medical device that dehydrates the scalp, she said.

“The problem with head lice traditionally is people comb, and if you miss one or two eggs, it comes back,” Fassler said.

The CDC hasn’t done research to confirm whether selfies are leading to increased cases of lice, according to Jamila Jones, a public health educator. But Jones offered several tips to avoid it:

  • Avoid head-to-head (hair-to-hair) contact during play and other activities at home, school and elsewhere (sports activities, playground, slumber parties, camp).
  • Do not share clothing such as hats, scarves, coats, sports uniforms, hair ribbons or barrettes.
  • Do not share combs, brushes or towels. Disinfect combs and brushes used by an infested person by soaking them in hot water (at least 130°F) for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Do not lie on beds, couches, pillows, carpets or stuffed animals that have recently been in contact with an infested person.

 

Above all, if you think you have lice, get checked out by a medical professional or someone who knows what to look for and start treatment to avoid spreading it to others.

But does it mean no more selfies ever? Chances are, you’re probably safe snapping a quick picture of you and your best friend.

If you’re not convinced, just remember that a picture of you, and only you, will look great on Facebook, too. Skip the selfies with friends — and the bugs.

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  • If you have outdoor plans for today, there will be no need to keep your eyes on the sky. National Weather Service Meteorologist Mark Plate says conditions will remain pleasant throughout the day in the Tulsa area. “It should still be a pretty nice day,” Plate said.  “Partly cloud skies, with the high temperature in the upper 80s.  Relatively low humidity values and light winds.” The low Sunday night will be around 63 degrees. We’ll see more of the same to start the work week.  NWS reports sunny skies though Wednesday and highs will remain in the upper 80s.  
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  • A suspect is dead, following an officer-involved shooting Saturday night near 4th and Garnett. Tulsa police report a pursuit stopped in the area and a suspect tried to flee on foot.   KRMG’s told he ran to a home, tried to kick in the door and then reportedly pulled out a gun.  During this time, he was shot by officers.   Neighbors we spoke to were concerned because they weren't sure what had happened. “All of a sudden we heard the gunshots,” a witness said.  “We didn’t know what was going on.” So far, no names have been released. We do know the suspect was said to be riding in a stolen car. KRMG will update the story when more information comes into the newsroom.
  • Responding to concerns about personal security for lawmakers after last week’s gun attack at a Congressional baseball practice, U.S. House leaders are moving to provide extra money to members for protection back home, as well as new funding to bolster the work of police and security officials on Capitol Hill. Under a plan approved by a House spending subcommittee on Friday, the Congress would provide an extra $7.5 million next year to the Capitol Police for an “increased security posture” around the Capitol, along with $5 million to the House Sergeant at Arms to help with security for lawmakers back in their districts. “We are taking a new fresh look at security,” said Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS), the Chairman of subcommittee that deals with funding for the Legislative Branch. Our FY18 Legislative Branch funding bill increases efficiency & transparency in Congress, enhances security for Members & our constituents. pic.twitter.com/FI36tF2XeH — Rep. Kevin Yoder (@RepKevinYoder) June 22, 2017 “The tragic events of June 14 weigh heavily on these deliberations,” said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, which could vote on the extra money as early as this next week. Also being put into motion is a separate plan to funnel an extra $25,000 to each member of the House – about $11 million in all – to help them increase security back in their districts. “The scariest part for us is there used to be this impression by the public that we all had security everywhere we went,” said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH). “Now, everyone knows that isn’t the case,” Ryan added, as he lent his support to the extra funding for security as well. The money in this budget bill would not take effect until the new fiscal year – which starts October 1 – so, House leaders are ready to okay extra money immediately for members worried about security back in their districts. Roll Call newspaper reported that could be approved in coming days by the House Administration Committee. Yoder said Congressional leaders are also waiting to see if money raised in campaign contributions for House elections could be put to use for security as well. “Pending an FEC (Federal Election Commission) decision, we’re also looking at whether campaign funds could be used to continue to support security upgrades at personal residences,” Yoder added.
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