Get to Know your New Best Friends

by Skookumchuck

One of the less-considered aspects of life at the End of the World is the new little friends you’ll make, the ones who are closest to you, that are always by your side. And on your head. And infesting your armpits.

That’s right, I’m talking parasites. As we all know, parasites won’t waste their time on a dead body and prefer the tasty, warm flesh of a healthy human being. So as long as you have parasites, you know you’re doing all right!

Let’s get to know them a little better, shall we?

Lively Louse: The humble louse can not survive for long once removed from its host, so your lice just can’t live with out you — don’t you feel special! Lice scavenge off your dead skin, fat secretions and blood, and can be found anywhere from the top of your head to the soles of your feet. There will be more female lice than male on your body — girl power! — and the eggs, called ‘nits’, are attached to your hair with a special type of saliva.

Are you scratching yet?

Scrumptious scabies: This skin condition gets its name from the Latin verb scabere, “to scratch”, but could also have been called obscenus, which is Latin for “yucky”. It is caused by a tiny parasite, the mite Sarcoptes scabiei, which sounds much more regal than it really is. The mite burrows under the skin, poops, and its fecal matter causes intense allergic itching. The mites can travel from host to host on objects, but are most likely to be passed by direct skin contact; they just love snuggling!

Terrific tapeworms: The humble tapeworm lives in the bodies of various animals as juveniles, then moves into the digestive tract of larger vertebrates as adults – if you’ve been munching on under-prepared meats, you likely have one of these little fellows as a tenant. There are over a thousand species of tapeworm, and some can grow to lengths of over 100 ft. We’ve all heard that having a tapeworm will make you lose weight, but that isn’t true. Tapeworms do not consume enough of your digested food to impact your nutritional needs – in fact, your body is more likely to retain water in response to the parasite’s presence. Feeling a little bloated? Blame your tapeworm!

Lovely Leeches: these little segmented worms are hermaphrodites and have two suckers, one at each end. (There’s a joke in there, but I’ll leave your naughty imagination to make it.) Most leeches live in freshwater environments, so you’re most likely to encounter them while wading chest-deep through a swamp, holding your meager possessions over your head. They are predominantly blood suckers; look for undulating dark slimy worms clinging hungrily to your skin. The medical community has been using leeches for centuries, starting in ancient India and Greece, so if it makes you feel any better, you can tell yourself with pride that you now have something in common with Plato as you peel these little suckers off.

In Conclusion: They may be pesky and itchy and give you ugly red patches on your skin, but these parasites are a fact of life in a place where running water is scarce, antibiotics are rare, and ‘kitchen hygiene’ means wiping the gore off your hands before opening a can of beans. As the old saying goes, ‘There ain’t no bloodsuckin’ vermin on a bloodless zombie’, so celebrate your little friends – they mean you’re still alive and kicking!

Skookumchuck (and all her parasites) out!

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