Michael Dumas and 17 of his friends from church decided to go to Pompano Beach on June 18 during a missionary trip to Florida.
Infected With Hookworms
When Michael returned home to Memphis, Tennessee, however, he started to experience a painful earache and developed rashes on his foot. His mother, Kelli Mulhollen Dumas, eventually decided to take him to the family pediatrician when red bumps appear on other parts of his body.
It was when the family discovered that Michael was infected by hookworms, and the parasites are replicating and growing inside the boy's body.
Buried In The Sand
It turns out that during the trip to the beach, Michael's friends buried him in the sand. A doctor informed the family that the worms possibly burrowed under his feet while he was buried.
Kelli has shared photos of her son's infection to spread awareness about the importance of using footwear in public spaces. Her Facebook post dated July 20 has already been shared more than 7,000 times.
"He was buried in the sand for fun and it has become our nightmare," Kelli wrote. "Never be buried in sand or allow your children to be either!"
Other members of the missionary team who joined the trip were also tested, and five were positive for hookworms.
Michael is still battling with a staph infection and cannot leave home. Doctors have given him a series of medication to treat the infection. The boy also had to go through cryotherapy, a treatment that involves use of extreme cold, to get rid of the parasitic worms in his body.
"He has a gaping wound on his right foot. He has four sutures," Kelly said. "This is beyond any scope, I never dreamed this is something that would happen."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 576 and 740 million people worldwide are infected with hookworms. Hookworms live in the small intestine, and the eggs are passed in the fecal waste of an infected person.
"If the infected person defecates outside (near bushes, in a garden, or field) of if the feces of an infected person are used as fertilizer, eggs are deposited on soil. They can then mature and hatch, releasing larvae," the CDC said.
Infection is often contracted by walking barefoot on contaminated soil. Symptoms of infection include blood loss that can lead to anemia and protein loss and gastrointestinal illness.