Friends Don’t Let Friends Bury Each Other in Hookworm Infested Sand

A teenager was spending a day at the beach in South Florida doing what many of us do at the beach – enjoying the sun, feeling the sand between our toes, and asking friends to bury us in the sand. The teen developed small red bumps on his skin soon after he returned home. The itchy spots spread to his feet, legs, and backside. It turns out the teen had a particularly nasty case of hookworms.

His mother, Kelli Dumas, describes the situation: “I can’t stress enough how traumatic it is for a teenage boy — and his mother — to know that there are worms living in his body.” Several of the teens friends also contracted hookworms, which makes the situation even more disgusting.

How does sand get contaminated with hookworms? Animals or humans infected with the super gross worms defecate into sand or soil, and “because their feces carry the parasite’s eggs, the ground then becomes contaminated.” They can penetrate the skin and meander into the bloodstream. The microscopic larvae “roam around in the person’s skin — causing those red, squiggly marks — trying, but unable, to mature or to reproduce.

Dumas goes so far as to recommend the following:

“Never walk barefoot on a beach again. Never be buried in the sand or allow someone else to…I can assure you, no one knows to wear shoes on the beach.”

Hookworms are gross but usually not serious. The most common symptoms are itchy skin and a rash, and can be treated with medication. The parasite may even die on its own, and most people do not usually feel it move inside their skin. So throw caution to the wind and continue walking barefoot on the beach! Let me know what happens.

Let’s Welcome the Bombali Virus to the Ebola Family

The Sierra Leone government has announced the discovery of a sixth Ebola species, the Bombali virus, named after bats found in the Bombali region. According to Amara Jambai, a senior ministry of health official, “At this time, it is not yet known if the Bombali Ebola virus has been transmitted to people or if it causes disease in people but it has the potential to infect human cells.”

Like any good scientist, Tracey Goldstein, of the One Health Institute at UC Davis, described the discovery as “exciting” but cautioned that “I think we have a lot of work to do to really understand if it is a pathogen and whether it does or doesn’t pose a threat.”

There are five other known Ebola viruses, four of which can cause the disease in people: Zaire ebolavirus, Sudan ebolavirus, Taï Forest ebolavirus, Bundibugyo ebolavirus, and Reston ebolavirus, “known to cause disease in nonhuman primates and pigs, but not in people.”

Reston ebolavirus, for those of you living in the U.S., is notable not only because an outbreak occurred in Reston, Virginia not far from D.C., but also because it was the inspiration for one of my favorite books: The Hot Zone. Highly recommended bedtime reading.

Ebola Contained in the Congo

Here is some good news: The WHO says the Ebola outbreak in the Congo is “largely contained” and likely over. So far 53 people have been infected and 29 have died. The last confirmed case was treated and released on June 12th. According to NBC News:

“More than 3,300 people had been given an experimental Ebola vaccine, using a technique called ring vaccination, in which cases of the disease are tracked down and all the people they have been in direct contact with are vaccinated. Then the contacts of those vaccinated people are tracked down and vaccinated. This method eradicated smallpox at the end of the 1970s.”

According to The New York Times, other methods used to fight the outbreak included deploying over 250 experts, three mobile laboratories, four treatment centers, equipment donations, and money.

“Donors provided four ambulances, numerous motorcycles and megaphones, and thousands of bleach tablets. Dozens of educational talks explaining the disease were organized…Donors gave $34 million toward stopping the outbreak. The W.H.O. initially spent $4 million from its emergency fund and asked for $26 million; as the outbreak expanded, the organization sought $57 million.”

The outbreak will not officially be declared over until one more 21-day incubation period has passed, but things are looking up, which is more than many of us can say for a lot of things in the world right now.

 

Next up in Summer Fun: Salmonella Melons

While it’s not technically summer just yet, the summer fun is already starting. Freshly cut melons including watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, and fruit medley products have been linked to a salmonella outbreak across five states. Customers in Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio are advised to avoid any tasty fruit they have bought pre-cut from Costco, Jay C, Kroger, Payless, Owen’s, Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, Walgreens, Walmart, and Whole Foods/Amazon.

According to the CDC: 60 people infected with the outbreak strain have been reported, 31 people have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported. It is believed that “pre-cut melon supplied by Caito Foods, LLC of Indianapolis, Indiana is a likely source of this multistate outbreak.”

Is salmonella serious? It can be:

Symptoms of salmonella begin 12 to 72 hours after a person is infected and include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramping. This can last about four to seven days, and most individuals recover without treatment. However, those who develop severe diarrhea may need to be hospitalized. Those who are very young, who are very old or who have compromised immune systems are most at risk for complications and severe cases of illness.

 

Fruit Bats Spread Rare Brain Damaging Virus

Seventeen people have died in the Indian state Kerala from the Nipah virus (NiV), a disease that causes acute respiratory syndrome and fatal encephalitis (swelling of the brain). There is no vaccine for Nipah virus.

It is spread primarily by fruit bats, and is transmitted to humans “through secretions from the bat to the fruit it feeds on or touches.” According to the CDC, transmission to humans can also occur “after direct contact with infected bats, infected pigs, or from other NiV infected people.” Person to person transmission is commonly seen among family and caregivers of someone infected. Papers report that a nurse who was treating victims recently died of the disease herself.

Fruits and vegetables imported from the state of Kerala have been banned and the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention has also issued a travel warning. State Health Minister KK Shailaja says that although it seems the first wave of the outbreak may be over, people should prepare for a second wave:

“The presence of Nipah virus can be confirmed only when the affected people show symptoms. So it is very essential for the affected people to be alert till their incubation period is over…The government has made elaborate arrangements to check the spread of the disease and the people who closely engaged with the Nipah infected people should avoid public gatherings and meeting till the end of the incubation period.”