Source of hook­worm in­fec­tions un­known

South Florida Sun-Sentinel Palm Beach (Sunday) - - Local - By Linda Trischitta and Lois K. Solomon South Florida Sun Sen­tinel

A day of beach fun and sun turned into an or­deal this sum­mer when sev­eral teens no­ticed some­thing ir­ri­tat­ing their skin: They all had hook­worms.

The mem­bers of Church of Christ at White Sta­tion in Mem­phis had vis­ited the beaches of Hol­ly­wood and Pom­pano Beach and a soccer field at their Pom­pano Beach ho­tel, where the teens played bare­foot in the rain.

Af­ter re­ceiv­ing re­ports about the grue­some par­a­sites, health of­fi­cials set out to learn all they could about what hap­pened to the church group mem­bers. Where did they get in­fected? How did it hap­pen? Sev­eral parts of the mys­tery re­main un­solved.

Health of­fi­cials could not find any hook­worms at the beach sites vis­ited by the church group, ac­cord­ing to a newly re­leased re­port from the Florida Depart­ment of Health in Broward.

Kelli Du­mas, a den­tist from Mem­phis, had posted on Face­book about her son Michael’s in­fec­tion, lead­ing to na­tional news sto­ries about how the ne­ma­todes at­tacked the boy af­ter friends buried him in the sand on Pom­pano Beach. “He is in pain and this is aw­ful,” Du­mas wrote on Face­book. “Never be buried in sand or al­low your chil­dren to be ei­ther.”

Hook­worms are in­testi­nal par­a­sites that like warm, moist cli­mates. Their eggs can be passed through feral an­i­mal fe­ces that may con­tam­i­nate sand or soil. In­fec­tions typ­i­cally spread when peo­ple walk bare­foot on a con­tam­i­nated site.

Some pa­tients with hook­worms ex­pe­ri­ence ab­dom­i­nal pain, es­pe­cially those in­fected for the first time, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion. Symp­toms in se­vere cases in­clude di­ar­rhea, loss of ap­petite and weight loss. There can be se­vere itch­i­ness and raised red lines be­cause of the larva in the skin. The in­fes­ta­tion is treat­able with medicine.

“The larva will die in the skin af­ter sev­eral weeks with­out de­vel­op­ing any fur­ther, and the itch­i­ness and red lines will go away,” the re­port said.

Af­ter the case this sum­mer came to light, in­ves­ti­ga­tors made ques­tion­naires for the adults and the teens’ par­ents, ask­ing which symp­toms were show­ing on those in­fected, ac­cord­ing to the re­port. That helped nar­row the list of pos­si­ble sites where the in­fec­tions hap­pened.

The group vis­ited Mi­ami-Dade on the first day of their trip, then went to Broward. They went to the beach in Hol­ly­wood for sev­eral hours, where five group mem­bers buried their feet in the sand. The group also vis­ited the beach in Pom­pano on more than one oc­ca­sion for sev­eral hours.

Of the five peo­ple who showed symp­toms, four said they had symp­toms ei­ther on their feet, an­kles or the lower part of their legs. The fifth per­son, the teen who was buried up to his neck in sand, had symp­toms on other body parts, too.

As part of their search, health of­fi­cials also were on the look­out for re­ports of dogs or cats wan­der­ing the sands. That’s be­cause hook­worms can be trans­mit­ted through the fe­ces of an in­fected an­i­mal.

“Based on the lim­ited num­ber of in­ter­views, no an­i­mals be­ing

ob­served, or an­i­mal waste be­ing found, the mul­ti­ple lo­ca­tions vis­ited by the group, we were un­able to iden­tify the lo­ca­tion of ex­po­sure,” said the health depart­ment’s re­port.

Be­sides the five mem­bers of the group who dis­played symp­toms of in­fec­tion, there were no other hook­worm cases re­ported to state or lo­cal health de­part­ments, the re­port said.

Pom­pano Beach spokes­woman San­dra King said city of­fi­cials were re­lieved the source of the out­break could not be found in the city.

“We … feel some­what vin­di­cated that the State’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­cluded that the hook­worm could have been ob­tained some­where other than the City of Pom­pano Beach based on the ac­tiv­i­ties of the youth and his friends who were bare­foot in mul­ti­ple lo­ca­tions in South Florida dur­ing their stay,” King said. “Ap­prox­i­mately 3 mil­lion peo­ple visit our beach ev­ery year and we’ve never re­ceived a com­plaint of a sim­i­lar oc­cur­rence.”

Kelli Du­mas told the South Florida Sun Sen­tinel

in July that she was con­fi­dent Michael con­tracted the par­a­sites on the beach. She could not be reached Thurs­day by phone or Face­book Mes­sen­ger.

At the time, Du­mas had shared graphic pic­tures of her son’s swelling and red­dened feet and de­tailed the cost of his treat­ment, in­clud­ing a steroid medicine that cost more than $1,300 for six pills.

In 2010, the Mi­ami-Dade Health Depart­ment linked an out­break of hook­worm to stray cats liv­ing at the beach.

At least six cases were con­firmed, with a dozen more sus­pected.

Hook­worms used to be fairly com­mon in the U.S., but im­prove­ments in liv­ing con­di­tions have greatly re­duced the num­ber of in­fec­tions, ac­cord­ing to the CDC.

[email protected] sun­sen­, 954-356-4233 or Twit­ter @Lin­daTrischitta


Kelli Du­mas, of Mem­phis, sup­plied this photo of her son’s case of hook­worm, which she said he con­tracted on the beach in Pom­pano Beach.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.