Saturday, December 12, 2009

Welcome to the Jungle! We’ve Got Parasites for You!

Welcome to the Jungle! We’ve Got Parasites for You!

OK, it’s true, I’m not really in the jungle. I am in the tropics though, and unfortunately I have contracted a parasite.

Do I know how I got it? I think I do. The weekend I went to the farm I got innumerable bites. There was one particular bite on my foot that was extraordinarily itchy. About a week later it was a little less than the size of a dime, but the texture was not that of a mosquito bite. It was firm and had little circular points that itched more than chicken pox and mosquito bites put together. These mysterious little dots seemed suspiciously like eggs to me.

Last Friday I had the school nurse look at it and I told her, “Pienso que esos son huevos.”
She told me, no, no they aren’t eggs, it’s just an allergic reaction. Get some hydrocortisone, which in Spanish is hidrocortisona. Gotta love cognates.

I bought and applied the hydrocortisone, which did help the itching, but then the little bite changed shape. Yes, it started looking like rivulets emerging from the, gulp, eggs?! ¡¿Gusanos?!

After having Tuesday off school for the Immaculate Conception, I returned to the school nurse on Wednesday and now she seemed a bit more concerned, as did the rest of my colleagues to whom I showed my foot. I had learned the word gusano while on the farm asking about the words for butterfly metamorphosis. Sometimes it means caterpillar, but usually means maggot or worm. Eewww! Do I have a worm or maggot growing in my foot?

Thankfully, Wednesday is my lightest teaching day so I was free after 12:45 to go to an urgent appointment at the dermatologia. The doctor looked at my foot and asked, “¿Fuiste una playa o finca?”

Uhh, yeah, I was at a farm when I got this bite and I go to the beach as often as possible.

Then she said, “Quita la ropa.”

I was kind of laughing (not sure if this was from nerves or humor) when I responded “Uh-oh. ¿Es este tan grave?”

“Vamos a ver,” was her optimistic retort.

As I was getting undressed and putting on the robe, I’ll admit that I was starting to think, “Crap! This could be really serious.”

The doctor checked me out and told me it was, in fact, un parásito, un gusano. I had contracted it from the farm and that if I take this very strong medicine for the next 5 days, it will be killed. Not to worry. Frankly though, for these kinds of maladies, it is much better to go to a doctor here than in the US, because these types of diseases are endemic. The doctors know what to do. My stress level waned.

I purchased the 5 pills of albendazole at the pharmacy. Each pill came in its own box and cost about $5.00 each. The –zole suffix is something I had seen in the medical world before. When I was in Nepal I had taken tinizole for giardia. I looked it up albendazole on the internet before taking it. According to Wikipedia it is “…used as a drug indicated for the treatment of a variety of worm infestations.” Oh yuck!

I have taken the albendazole for 3 days now and the itching has diminished significantly and the bite is less bulgy. Luckily, I don’t seem to be suffering from any potential side effects, though I have been rather enervated lately.

One of my colleagues has joked with me about my little snake. Another of my dear friends said it was representative of my having been in a parasitic relationship and the foot represents moving forward. All I know is that it is disgusting! ¡Qué asco!


  1. Gross Elizabeth! But funny too, now that you are okay.
    It reminds me of the Mango Flies in Tanzania - they lay their eggs in clothing hung out to dry. If not ironed properly, the eggs then rub up against human skin and the larva burrow under the skin where they grow for 8-12 days before breaking the skin and crawling out to turn into flies. A colleague of mine had them all around her midriff, as the top of her jeans hadn't been ironed well enough to kill them. she had to allow them to grow and crawl out.. nothing like having a few worms under your skin, huh?
    i'm glad you are on the mend! plus you'll probably have a cool scar of your foot to tell about for a while :)

  2. um... that is crazy. glad things worked out.

    (ps can we get translations after all your spanish talk on here for the rest of us non spanish speakers? :) thanks!)

  3. So, sooo, sorry!!! ARe you sure you don't just want to have that thing cut out of your foot???