People have been getting more and more sick with the flu this winter and now scientists have a better idea of why: sea louse bites.
Scientists have studied more than 100 sea lizards across four countries and have found the strain is more common in China, where a surge of lice has led to the deaths of more than 500 people.
Dr. David C. O’Keefe, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University, told CNN that lice are often more likely to spread if people are infected by infected ticks.
“When a person is infected by a tick, they can transmit the infection and they can develop a bacterial disease that can cause symptoms like fever, chills, fever, sore throat, sore eyes, headache, cough and fatigue,” O’Keefe said.
“So, in this particular outbreak, it was more likely that people who were infected by ticks were more likely than other people to develop symptoms.”
According to O’Keeffe, the pandemic has been largely caused by China’s soaring number of louse infestations, which have led to a massive spike in the number of new cases.
“They’ve got more than 6 million cases this year,” O`Keefe said.
“And they’re getting more cases than they did last year.”
The numbers of new lice cases are on the rise in many of China’s regions, including in Xinjiang, an impoverished Muslim region that’s seen a massive influx of migrants from across the world.
O’Keefe and his colleagues believe the virus is the reason the lice have become more common across the country.
“In areas where there is a lot of migration, the louse populations are increasing, and they’re going to be spread around,” O�Keefe said, citing an analysis of new and dead lice found in a landfill in the city of Hangzhou, where some of the new cases were found.
“That’s going to result in a lot more lice, and that’s probably a bigger part of the problem.”
“It’s a big concern for people,” O”Keefe said of the outbreak, adding that it will be hard to stop the spread of the disease in the United States if it continues to spread.