In the YouTube video you can see a mother desperately trying to run a fine-toothed nit comb through her daughter’s coarse locks, which appear to be crammed with white and green creepy crawlies. The instance camera focuses on the comb, infinite squirming lice are displayed.
Dr Alejandra Perotti, a lecturer at the University of Reading’s School of Biological Sciences, established the infestation as head lice – and stated it was a shock to see the severity of it. She said: ‘They [infestations] are quite common in the UK and in Europe, but not to this level.’ Head lice, also called pediculosis capitis, are tiny insects that inhabit human hair, which grow to the size of a sesame seed.
For food they bite the scalp and drink the blood. The females breed near the root of the hair so the eggs are kept warm by the scalp, and these hatch into more lice which multiply. Dr Perotti explained in extreme cases like this one, children usually develop a condition termed ‘plica polonica’ – where all the hairs get glued together and cannot be brushed. ‘To treat you need to cut off all the hair. At this moment, they need to remove all the hair, to get rid of nits – combing and shampoo would not work,’ she added.
She continued: ‘Even if child gets treated, the lice will stay for around a year, as the old nits become visible.’ One rarely-used procedure of treating head lice is use of antibiotics, Dr Perotti stated. ‘Bacterium inhabit all human lice.’ ‘Intake of antibiotics likely kill the lice, because it kills this bacterium inside of them and they can’t subsist without it.’
Dee Wright, founder of the Hairforce salons which offer a specialised ‘Lice Assasins’ service in different locations of the UK, admitted this case is on par with some of the more extreme cases she has come across in her salons. ‘That looks very heavy. We see infestations of that nature,’ she said.
Ms Wright said it’s not hard to discern how such worst infestations occur, the lifespan and breeding capability of the female louse makes everything obvious. ‘The female just requires to lay once. She lives for 30 days lays up to 10 eggs a day. ‘So you can see how if you have 200 eggs hatching at one time, they grow up and mate, and you’re off. Things move pretty fast and you can be stormed.’
Ian Burgess, Director of the Medical Entomology Centre, in Cambridge, said it appears the child’s lice problem was several months old. He added: ‘There must be 200-300 adults there, however, the combing style is odd, without any break or cleaning of the comb. ‘Oddly, the lice all appear to be stuck to the middle of the comb but I cannot work out why or how.’ ‘This child would have contracted lice in the routine way and then the numbers just grew without check because nobody did anything.
Ms Wright added: ‘Lice hold bacteria, impetigo. While feeding, the lice inject their saliva. That carries anticoagulant. ‘Low levels of this anticoagulant will cause mild flu-like symptoms. ‘Kids with bad infestations appear quite pale, quite quiet, not concentrating on schoolwork.
WHAT ARE HEAD LICE AND HOW DO THEY MULTIPLY?
Head lice, also called pediculosis capitis, are tiny insects that inhabit human hair, which grow to the size of a sesame seed.
For food they bite the scalp and drink the blood. The females breed near the root of the hair so the eggs are kept warm by the scalp, and these hatch into more lice which multiply.
Head lice can bring on an itchy scalp, however, not everyone is allergic – and the absence of itchiness can mean the head lice go undetected and continue to multiply.
A female head louse breeds by cementing the eggs to hairs, while the scalp keeps them warm. The eggs are pinhead-size and difficult to see. Hatching of baby lice occurs within seven to 10 day and the empty eggshells remain glued in place. These empty eggshells are called nits. The white-colored nits turn visible as the hair grows and carries them away from the scalp. Head lice bite the scalp and feed on blood. In around 10 days they become fully grown. A female head louse begins laying eggs from nine days after she’s hatched.
HOW SELFIES ARE CAUSING A RISE IN HEAD LICE
Experts in US pointed out that selfie sensation was not just infesting social media but scalps as well. Marcy McQuillan, a lice-treatment expert who manages two lice-treatment centres in California, disclosed she had witnessed a dramatic rise in the incidence of lice among young people.
She feels head bumping for selfie snaps as the likely culprit. ‘Head lice multiply via head-to-head contact,’ she said. ‘Every teen I’ve treated, I ask about selfies, and they admit that they are taking them every day.’