Canadian Couple Gets Hookworm Infection After Walking Barefoot on Beach


Zytner said that on the very first day of their week-long trip, he and Stephens had walked barefoot on beaches near the resort on Playa Bavaro in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

He saw two doctors, but they were unable to tell what had caused the symptoms. If anything, it intensified, and both of their feet began to swell. Sure, I'll miss that feeling of warm sand between my toes during my next trip, but if water shoes or flip flops can help me avoid that kind of gross pain and swelling, you can bet your bottom sand-dollar that I'll be wearing them.

The pair had contracted hookworms, otherwise known as larva migrans, which are parasites which enter the skin when coming in contact with infected surfaces.

The couple said they could have caught the parasites while walking barefoot at the Punta Cana resort's beach.

Both Stephens and Zytner had caught larva migrans, which are commonly known as hookworms.

When the couple tried to get ivermectin, a drug that will treat hookworm infections, they experienced first-hand a problem that The Globe and Mail has reported to be widespread: some common medications used to treat tropical illnesses and other diseases are not available in Canada because no drug company will sell them, despite their availability in other countries like the United States. Unfortunately, unlike to what they first believed, the reason why they started having itchy and swollen feet wasn't sea fleas, at all. A couple from the Niagara region whom they met at the resort are also said to be suffering from the same condition.

To have permission, the doctor sent Health Canada a request for the medicine.

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"We found out that Health Canada had denied our request to receive the medication saying our case wasn't severe enough", Stephens told the Daily Mail.

Instead, Zytner's mother had to drive to Detroit and pay CAD$88 to pick up the medication for the couple. His feet developed blisters and small bumps; and eventually - as shown in one photo - a raised, red rash formed squiggly, vein-like lines down his foot.

"We were scratching our toes for nearly the duration of the trip", Eddie Zytner said. Zytner and Stephens said they took the medication for two days.

The couple, who are now on medication (a drug called ivermectin) and walking on crutches, have said they've seen an improvement since their treatment began. Then, he added that he still had to change the bandages again, and considered it was "another chance" to look how their feet were "progressing".

Their feet are now improving, but they still have a ways to go to fix the damage to their skin.

To inform their friends and any other person who wants to travel or go to the beach, the couple uploaded photos on their Facebook profiles showing what the parasite made to their feet.