Miley Cyrus may have claimed she's disavowed Twerking in her latest interview with Rolling Stone, but she's way into something that could turn out to be much more dangerous: licking things. She's licking a hammer and a rusty chain in the Wrecking Ball video. She's licking teddy bears onstage at the VMA's. She's licking a Moon Man. She's licking her friends, her jewelry, her own shoulder. God knows what she's licking when the cameras aren't rolling. But all that tonguing has us wondering: is Miley's incessant licking a public health risk? We asked some pathology experts to weigh in.
I spoke with two people who know all about the tiny invisible bugs that could make you poop, barf, or bleed yourself to death — Dr. Tim Lahey, an infectious diseases expert at Dartmouth, and a female pandemic specialist who has worked with the US Government who didn't want me to use her name on the off chance that Miley Cyrus might track her down and lick her — and presented both of them with a list of common global diseases. Prognosis: Miley's probably not going to die from licking stuff — but she could.
African Sleeping Sickness
What is it? A parasitic disease transmitted via bite from the tsetse fly.
How can Miley catch it by licking? Since it's spread by insects, both experts agreed that it was unlikely that Miley could contract African Sleeping Sickness through licking. Unless, of course, she licked a tsetse fly and was bitten on the tongue during a licking.
What is it? An infection of the small intestine that causes sufferers to shit themselves to death. Some of you may remember cholera as the disease that killed Marta in Meet Kirsten, by far the most grim of all the American Girls books.
How can Miley catch it by licking? Cholera can contaminate surfaces, so Miley could definitely catch it by licking "contaminated utensils or cooking supplies," says my pandemic specialist friend. Dr. Lahey remarked that while it was completely possible for Miley to catch cholera via licking, the likelihood that she'd be in a geographic location where cholera would just be hanging out on lickable surfaces is slim.
What is it? A respiratory illness that is spread through the air.
How can Miley catch it by licking? If Miley were to lick a wrecking ball chain that had been coughed on by a person with Bird or Swine Flu, she'd likely contract the disease. And if she were to contract the disease and lick other surfaces, it could spread.
What is it? Come on. You know what HIV is. It's that disease that forced your parents to explain to you what a condom was when you were 8.
How can Miley catch it by licking? Dr. Lahey works extensively with HIV, and he explained that the only way she could catch it via licking is if she "were to lick just the wrong thing at just the wrong time." So, like, a knife covered with fresh AIDS blood.
What is it? A disease of the liver that can lead to long term tiredness or weakness. Pamela Anderson has it.
How can Miley catch it? Miley could catch Hepatitis A, but not B or C, by licking a contaminated food item handled by a person who has Hepatitis A and did not wash their hands properly. So, if Miley licks a fish caught by a grizzled and infected sailor, get ready to twerk your way to Hepatitis town, sweetcheeks.
What is it? A chronic, viral, blister-causing disease often transmitted through sexual contact with an infected person, many of whom are named Randy.
How can Miley catch it by licking? If she licked a herpes-infected penis or someone's cold sore.
What is it? An infection of the respiratory system and rash caused by a virus and/or Jenny McCarthy.
How can Miley catch it by licking? If Miley is unvaccinated, she can catch measles by licking a measles-contaminated surface, like a hammer that someone with measles just got done licking.
What is it? A severe diarrhea-causing bacterial illness that mostly affects children.
How can Miley catch it by licking? Filling her mouth with Legos played with by infected children, and then sensually spitting them out, one by one.
What is it? Another thing where you poop until you die.
How can Miley catch it by licking? Miley could catch this if she licks the unwashed hands of an person with dysentery in an attempt to further prove that she's not Hannah Montana anymore; she's fucking punk.
What is it? A virus that causes a hemorrhaging fever
How can Miley catch it by licking? She'd have to get bit by a mosquito carrying the virus, so unless she licked a mosquito that was infected, she's safe from Yellow Fever. FOR NOW.
What is it? An infection of the lymph nodes that causes super gross swelling and discoloration. Killed 25 million Europeans during the 14th century. Again: super gross.
How can Miley catch it by licking? It's not that I want Miley to catch the bubonic plague; it's just that I wish there were a compelling reason for Miley to stop licking everything besides "I'm tired of looking at Miley's tongue;" "You're going to catch the black death" is much less petty-sounding. But my unnamed source friend had to come along and rain on my death parade. She wrote,
If Miley licks the rat and the rat bites her or one of the rat's fleas bites her, yes she could get bubonic plague. There is also a small chance that if someone with the pneumonic form of the disease coughs or sneezes it is possible, though not conclusive, that objects could be contaminated for a short time.
So, uh, keep your tongue away from the rats, Miley.
What is it? A serious, acute respiratory infection spread via the air with a 10% fatality rate.
How can Miley catch it by licking? SARS had its moment in the sun about a decade ago, but she could catch it nowadays by licking, say, a four finger ring that an infected someone in Hong Kong coughed on.
So is Miley a public health risk? Dr. Lahey says no. Unnamed lady scientist says no. But both agree that she could be setting herself up for some long, unpleasant toilet time unless she keeps her tongue in her mouth.