Who doesn’t dream of a romantic, moonlight walk along the beach? Walking barefoot, feeling the sand between your toes. Sounds delightful.
But a couple of weeks ago, a Canadian couple returned from their vacation in the Domincan Republic to discover that the itchiness they were experiencing in their feet was the result of hookworms that they picked up from that barefoot walk on the beach.
According to the CDC:
The parasite species that cause cutaneous larva migrans — commonly known as hookworms or whipworms — mostly live in the small intestine but can be passed in the feces of an infected person or animal, depending on the species. If that person defecates outside, or if the feces is used as fertilizer, as it is in some countries, the eggs can be deposited in the soil. Some species prefer sand. Infections are most common in the Americas.
The most common source of infections is walking barefoot through contaminated soil.
(I’ll let you pause here until you’ve finished shuddering.)
This little story has made all the major news outlets. I saw it several times in my newsfeed over the last several days. The media just LOVES to push stories like this. It’s tantalizing clickbait posing as actual health news. And I’m sure it scares the bejeezus out of anyone who reads it. Panicked soccer moms start Googling to find out if any local beaches have been the source of infection. Hypochondriacs make frantic calls to their doctors complaining of itchy feet. Of course, these infections are rare in North America (or it wouldn’t be “news”) and most of us have nothing to worry about.