Hookworms in Feet: Couple Warns About Walking Barefoot in Sand

Phillip Cunningham
January 31, 2018

But, thanks to a unsafe - and very gross - parasite hidden within the sandy grains of many beaches out there, there's also a very good reason to avoid walking barefoot on the beach altogether: hookworms.

The pair initially brushed it off as bug bites, though.

"The hookworm larvae can infect people if their bare skin comes into contact with the soil - for example, if you're walking barefoot", the NHS notes.

Luckily, a third doctor was able to diagnose their condition, having seen similar symptoms from a tourist who recently traveled to Thailand.

The couple rushed to a doctor who told them they had contracted larva migrans.

When the couple tried to get ivermectin, a drug that will treat hookworm infections, they experienced first-hand a problem that The Globe and Mail has reported to be widespread: some common medications used to treat tropical illnesses and other diseases are not available in Canada because no drug company will sell them, despite their availability in other countries like the United States.

The couple are said to be recovering and had another doctor's appointment.

Zytner and Stephens weren't ready to give up without a fight, however.

The couple said they could have caught the parasites while walking barefoot at the Punta Cana resort's beach.

"Wow, so sorry you had to deal with this and Canada refused medicine". His feet developed blisters and small bumps; and eventually - as shown in one photo - a raised, red rash formed squiggly, vein-like lines down his foot.

Stephens believed that they could receive the drug by the end of this week. They can be treated sooner with anti-parasitic medicine, however.

"We found out that Health Canada had denied our request to receive the medication saying our case wasn't severe enough".

She also shared that her objective behind posting their ordeal on Facebook was to warn people of the potential danger of travelling to tropical areas and Eddie said that he wanted doctors to become more aware of the condition.

Stephens' mother had to drive over the Canadian-US border to Detroit in order to pick up the ivermectin they needed. She paid CAD$88 and returned to deliver it to her son and his girlfriend.

"They [his feet] feel better", Zytner said in the interview. They are now recovering and the infection is expected to subside in the next few weeks.

Hookworm infections are very treatable, but more than 500 million people around the world are still infected, making it a neglected tropical disease. "We're getting our bandages changed again... so we'll have another chance to look at them and see how it's progressing", Zytner said.

The couple shared their story on Facebook along with photos of their feet in an effort to raise awareness about the parasites for doctors and travellers.

"For a lot of our trip, we found that we were scratching our feet quite a bit", Zytner told CTV News.

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