A mother cut her visit to Columbia short after her 12-year-old daughter contracted the New World screwworm. (Warning: The photo below is graphic).
Joy Sheirik was volunteering at an orphanage in Columbia with her 12-year-old daughter, Brianna, when she says 20 little bumps appeared on the girl's head, American Web Media reported.
Joy decided the bumps looked serious enough to cut the vacation short.
"I thought Brianna had some poisoning earlier, but in my gut, I felt like there was something more going on," Joy explained. "I wanted to get home to the United States."
While on the plane back home, Brianna's bumps began bursting and oozing blood and clear liquid. A friend said it looked "as if someone had taken a pencil and stabbed her daughter multiple times on her scalp."
Joy rushed her daughter to the hospital after landing in the United States. Doctors confirmed that Brianna had contracted the New World screwworm. They said they could still hear the flesh-eating parasites moving in her scalp.
Dr. Dan Riskin from Animal Planet’s "Monsters Inside Me" said the parasite is actually not uncommon.
"We do not have to try to come up with some sort of disgusting supernatural thing," Riskin told Inside Edition, American Web Media reports. "Nature is worse than anything you can make up. It’s not very likely to happen to an everyday person. That’s what makes it so scary."
Riskin instructed families on how to avoid the parasite.
“Wash your hands before you prepare food and wash your hands after you go to the bathroom. That’ll avoid you so many things," Riskin said, adding that a little research before traveling to foreign countries can go a long way.
"All you have to do is read a little bit about what to expect when you get there," the doctor said. "If you know what parasites are out there, you can defend yourself adequately."
Riskin also advised people to wear long sleeves when traveling to locations known to have malaria, as it would lessen the chances of getting bit by mosquitos. He also said to avoid warm waters.
"Brain-eating amoeba lives in warm, fresh water and normally lives its life in the mud, decomposing things," Riskin said. "It’s super rare but it’s happening more and more commonly in warm bodies of fresh water due to climate change. Personally I would not want to fall down waterskiing in a warm lake."
New World screwworm flies survive by eating the flesh of living mammals and sometimes birds, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. During their previous infestation in the United States, they cost the livestock industry about $20 million annually.