cooties

William Reeder "wmr-60 at xi.netcom.com" at ix.netcom.com
Wed Jan 1 05:45:21 EST 1997


Gary Moffatt wrote:
> 
> In the first part of '96 my dad was confined to a nursing home and
> immediately on release started having horrid skin problems. His Dr.
> after a few weeks sent him to a dermatologist who took two days to
> diagnose him with scabies. He may have had scabies but he made some
> comment about the great big bugs and I happened to see one in the house.
> I found pictures of all kinds of mites and scabies on the internet but
> no cooties.
>         As a history major I know about cooties association with WW I. I also
> know they are commonly hosted by cows and have encountered a few little
> ones (under 2 inches) from time to time. The dictionary says they are a
> mite but the bugs I have seen have tiny bodies and very long legs, not
> like any mite.  The cootie also has a damned anomolous articulation that
> makes it look more like a crawling swastica than a mite.
>         What is the life cycle of this bug? What is the treatment and
> prognosis? My dad was treated with Elemite, which seems to be
> pyretherides in a cream base. The scabies were knocked out immediately
> and his symptoms reduced dramaticly but I saw a live cootie weeks after
> the scabies were gone.

The term "cootie" is slang for the human body louse, Pediculus humanus.  
It is the vector of typhus, a rickettsial disease which killed millions 
during the first world war.  It is also the vector of trench typhus a 
less serious disease which also caused millions of non-fatal casulties 
during the first world war. Hans Zinsser's book Rats, Lice and History is 
the classic study on the subject and should be available at most 
libraries.



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