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.
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.
Just in time for summer, the CDC reminds you not to swim with diarrhea:
“During 2000–2014, public health officials from 46 states and Puerto Rico reported 493 outbreaks associated with treated recreational water. These outbreaks resulted in at least 27,219 cases and eight deaths.”
Over half the outbreaks occurred during June, July, and August, and hotel pools were the leading culprit location. The majority of outbreaks (89%) were caused by Cryptosporidium – a parasite that causes diarrhea, thus passing the gift along to all the friends you went swimming with. Other infectious outbreaks were caused by the bacteria Pseudomonas and Legionella. Of these three, Cryptosporidium is the most chlorine resistant and the hardest to kill.
The CDC recommends that you 1) don’t swim with diarrhea or an upset stomach, 2) check the inspection score of the pool you are about to submerse your body into, and 3) don’t swallow the water. I don’t know many people who actively try and swallow pool water, but it’s worth noting that it’s very easy to swallow even small amounts of water accidentally when swimming. Cheers to summer!