A Canadian couple found parasitic worms in their feet after coming back from a vacation in the Dominican Republic.
Eddie Zytner, 25, and his girlfriend, Katie Stephens, 22, recall returning home on Jan. 18 with relatively minor symptoms they attributed to a bug bite, reports CNN Wire.
"We were scratching our toes for almost the duration of the trip," Zytner said.
Yet only four days later, the itching turned into painful swelling and blisters, forcing them to use crutches as they could not wear shoes or socks.
The couple was eventually diagnosed with cutaneous larva migrans, caused by hookworm larvae that likely latched onto their feet while they walked barefoot on the beaches of Punta Cana.
Although they usually live in the intestines of dogs, cats, and some wild animals, the larvae can enter human skin if it touches sand or soil contaminated with animal feces.
While they are found worldwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states they particularly affect "less developed areas of the world" where "dogs and cats are often free-ranging and have high rates of infection with hookworm."
"To anybody traveling somewhere tropical, please be careful when in the sand and wear shoes!" Stephens warns on Facebook.
Zytner agreed, adding tourists should also "call the resort they’re staying at and see if they clean up all the beaches."
While the condition usually goes away on its own within about six weeks, antiparasiticmedications such as albendazole or ivermectin can help.
However, at first, the couple reportedly struggled to gain access to the medications.
Although the drugs are included on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medications identified for basic health care systems, it is reportedly tough to get a prescription for them in Canada.
"The drug companies don't think they're going to sell enough to make it worth their while," said Dr. Stan Houston, a professor of infectious disease and public health at the University of Alberta, who was not involved in the couple’s treatment. "So that is the reason they're not licensed in Canada."
Consequently, the understandably upset couple had to jump through a few hoops.
"Thank you Canada for your lovely health care you provide for us!" Stephens wrote.
They eventually got the drugs from a local physician who was dual certified in Canada and the U.S.
Zytner says their symptoms have improved significantly since they started treatment.
"We've been off crutches for a couple of days now," he said. "We can finally put some pressure on our feet. The worms are pretty much faded away."