One of the great joys (and curses) of blogging is the random email. I think after this, I have now officially heard it all:
“I have a question for the entimoligist. [sic] I’m hoping you could give me some advice. My boyfriend is all excited about the love lice, pubic hair animal things and wants us to get them. I’m not sure this is such a good idea. He says these are specially bred and they’re not the same kind as homeless people’s lice. He says these are bigger and tame. I’d never heard of this before, but he and his buddies are all into it. “
And she then referred me to this website: LoveBugz.net: “The FanSite of the Lousing Lifestyle.” From their FAQ page:
The dealio is special bred pubic crab louses from Japan (not the same as homeless people’s variety of lice exactly). First, they DON’T BITE, they just live off dead skin cells and such in your bush. Really, you’re cleaner with them there than without them.
Second, these babies are HUGE!!! Well, huge compared to regular lice. And they just live happily in your underwear. It’s so COOL! They grow, and have families.
You can feel em living and crawling around. It’s like having personal Sea monkeys in your pants.
Egad. I immediately thought that this was a spoof site, but it is a spoof someone is investing a lot of time and energy into. (I especially like the username “Lice Lice Baby!”).
Given the infinite ability of humans to get off on just about anything, I’ll grant that someone could fetishize having pubic lice (Phthirus pubis for those who want the taxonomic details). And it does have it’s own fetish name: pthirophilia. Certainly someone believes this fad is real enough to ask for an interview on Craig’s list.
However, whether it is real or not, the site is spreading a great deal of misinformation.
First, the likelihood that “pet” crab lice could be bred to not bite and live off dead skin cells is nill.
To put it more bluntly, It’s. Total. Bull. Shit.
These animals have spent millions of years feeding on blood through your skin–they have no way to suddenly start munching skin cells.
A crab louse infestation is also not pleasant–from Medline:
“The presence of pubic lice is heralded by moderate to severe itching in the area covered by pubic hair….Because the crab louse requires human blood to survive, it buries its head inside a pubic hair follicle. It excretes a substance into the skin that causes the itching.
Sometimes the bite can cause an inflammatory skin reaction that is bluish gray in color. Although the lice do not cause a rash, the constant scratching and digging can cause the skin to become raw, and secondary infections may develop.”
Second, the idea that these are your crabs, and that having them is low risk to anyone else, is also not correct. A scientific study from 1983 suggests that crab lice are quite active, and move about between subjects more than previously believed. While it is rare for transmission to occur, trying on bathing suits and underwear is a known risk for transmission of crab lice, as is sharing bedding or clothing with an infected person. Crabs can survive for up to 2 days off their host.
Lastly, the idea promoted on LoveBugz that you can “easily” get rid of crabs is not correct. Additionally, the LoveBugz site suggests using Kerosene, which is about the worst thing you can possibly do (especially if you have open sores from the bites!).
As anyone who’s tried to get rid of head lice can tell you, just one treatment isn’t always enough. Detailed instructions on how to safely get rid of pubic lice are here. Note that crab lice can also occur in the eyebrows and armpits; make sure you wash everything.
So, if the goal of the email was to get me to link to the LoveBugz site, I guess they succeeded–but that site is total BS.
But Wait! There’s more!