A Tennessee mother warns people of the dangers of hookworm, a parasite that invades the skin after her son has been infected during a trip to a Florida beach.
He became viral in a Facebook post last week. Kelli Dumas wrote that her 17-year-old son Michael made a mission trip to Florida in June, where his friends buried him "for fun" in the sand at Pompano Beach. But the consequences were clearly not.
"It's awful and it's so painful," she told the news channel Local Memphis. "He's been through so much pain, I've posted this on Facebook to warn people that this can happen."
At least five other people from Michael's journey also had hookworms, the local branch reported. Dumas noted in her Facebook post that her son had "the worst case by far".
There are many species of hookworms living in the small intestine of humans or animals. Faeces from an infected person or an infected animal contain eggs from the parasite, and the parasite spreads when excreta gets into the ground. Hookworm larvae can then invade the skin that comes in contact with them. People contract the parasites mainly by walking barefoot on contaminated soil.
Specifically, Michael was diagnosed with an infection by a hookworm, also known as a zoonotic hookworm, which is a type of hookworm living in the gut of an animal, the Washington Post reported. The other primary type of hookworm is the human hookworm, which means a species that lives in the intestine of humans.
Typically, zoonotic hookworm in humans causes an infection of the skin, according to the CDC. In contrast, human hookworms infect a person's intestine and can lead to protein deficiency or anemia. And if zoonotic hookworms infest animals, it can lead to a life-threatening intestinal infection in animals.
The CDC notes that while hookworms are found throughout the world, zoonotic hookworms are more common in the United States on the east coast than on the west coast. Human hookworms thrive in warm, humid climates.
The Florida Department of Health did not immediately respond to a request for comment from HuffPost, although a spokeswoman for USA Today said the department was investigating "the situation."  Dumas has reported to numerous media that treating her son, which has so far cost thousands of dollars, includes medication and cryotherapy, a treatment that "freezes" lesions from the skin. She said he also needed to take extra medication to treat staph, a bacterial infection he had contracted in his wounds.
"I can not stress enough how traumatic it is for a teenager – and his mother – to know worms that live in his body," she told the Washington Post.