A Canadian couple who recently went on vacation in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic returned to their home country with parasitic hookworms in their feet. To make matters worse, they were denied the necessary medication in Canada.
Hookworms From Punta Cana Vacation
Katie Stephens and Eddie Zytner brought home a tropical souvenir in their feet: worms. The couple spent one week in Punta Cana, at the IFA Villas Bavaro Resort, and had spent time walking barefoot on the beach.
Their feet started feeling itchy at one point, but they brushed it off as bug bites. Things got worse, however, and finally they decided to seek medical attention. Upon their return to Canada, they found out that they had contracted parasites in their feet.
"My boyfriend and I recently got back from Punta Cana to discover that we both have larva migrans, in other terms worms in our feet," 22-year-old Katie Stephens notes in a post on Facebook, warning about the risks of walking in the sand without shoes on. "If your feet become incredibly itchy please get it checked out right away since we simply thought it was just bug bites and it became worse as each day passed."
Larva Migrans, Also Known As Hookworms
According to reports, the first two doctors didn't know what caused the couple's feet to swell and itch so badly, but a third doctor had recently seen a similar case in a patient who had been in Thailand and recognized it as hookworms.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has some health guidelines for those who plan to visit the Dominican Republic, but they don't specifically mention hookworms. On the other hand, they do advise people to avoid walking barefoot on beaches where there might be animal feces, as that's how hookworms spread. According to the CDC, more than 576 million people worldwide may have parasitic hookworms.
Denied Treatment For Hookworms In Canada
The couple needed a medication called ivermictin to treat their disease, However, as it is not licensed in Canada, their doctor had to make a special request to Health Canada.
Stephens said that she and her boyfriend expected to be able to get the medication within the week, but apparently Health Canada considered that their condition was not severe enough so they denied the request.
Luckily, Zytner's mother went to Detroit, where ivermictin is available, to pick up the medication and get it into Canada. Both Stephens and Zytner took the drug for two days and are on their way to recovery, but for now they're reportedly still using crutches to walk. The couple will be consulting a specialist in the near future to see what they can do about the skin damage they suffered on their feet.