A mission trip to Florida turned into a painful, itchy nightmare for a Memphis, Tennessee, teen when a stop at the beach left him infected with parasitic worms.
“It’s horrible and it’s so painful. He’s been through so much pain,” 17-year-old Michael Dumas’ mother told Local Memphis. “I don’t ever want anyone else to suffer like this.”
She shared part of her son’s story on Facebook, and included several graphic photos of his feet, which show angry red and wrinkled patches of skin.
“Michael went to Miami June 20 for a mission trip. He was buried in the sand for fun and it has become our nightmare. Four of our people contracted a parasitic infection, hookworms, from the Pompano Beach,” she wrote. “Michael has the worst case, by far. He has taken Clindamyacin, Ivermectin, a steroid dose pack, and Albenza which cost $1356 for 6 pills.”
She told Local Memphis Michael was buried in the sand by his friends as part of the beach fun, and that’s when he was infected.
A Memphis doctor told the family Michael had worms burrowing under his feet, and that one of them was 3 inches long, WMC reported.
“We have suffered so much. I don’t want anyone else to go through this; he’s going to be permanently scarred,” the teen’s mother told the station.
Hookworms are parasites that penetrate the skin and take up residence in the human digestive system, where they feed on blood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The first signs of infection are usually itchy, painful rashes at the site where they entered the body.
After that, symptoms vary. Some people have no symptoms, while others develop severe anemia, according to the CDC. As many as 740 million people are infected with hookworm worldwide, according to the agency. It is treatable with medications.
It was largely believed to have been wiped out across the U.S. in the 1900s, though there has been some evidence of the infection popping back up in the Southeast, NPR reported.
Dumas’s mother told WMC she called the county health department but was told by an official that “everyone knows to wear shoes on the beach because you can get parasites.”
Dumas wrote that she was sharing her son’s story on the pictures to warn other parents of the dangers.
“Never be buried in sand or allow your children to be either! I am only showing a few pictures because it is so disturbing. Please, please pray for him to heal,” she wrote.