A Tennessee mother is sharing her son’s story after he contracted hookworms last month on a mission trip to Pompano Beach in Florida.
Kelli Dumas said her son and eight other boys went on a church trip in June. After the 17-year-old’s return home to Memphis, his family discovered he’d contracted the parasite.
Since the diagnosis Dumas has been documenting her son’s battle.
“I have an entire album,” she said. “At this moment, there are 47 photos.”
The teen is currently resting at home with his foot elevated. He’s being treated with $1,300 worth of medications. His lower body is covered in blisters, scabs and rashes.
“They’re incredibly horrible and they’re so graphic,” said his mother. “One of them is three inches by three inches. It’s a crater in his foot.”
Her son told her he noticed an itch after a day of relaxation on the beach following volunteer work. Pictures show Michael playfully being buried in the sand by friends on Pompano Beach where the parasite entered through his foot.
“Since this all happened I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research,” said Dumas. “They enter into your bloodstream, they enter into your skin and they replicate at a very rapid pace.”
Medical experts say the hookworm parasite breeds in warm climates where sanitation is poor. Risk factors include walking barefoot in areas like beaches where the parasite lives.
As it turns out Michael wasn’t the only teen infected, at least five other people from his group reported similar symptoms.
Dumas has been in touch with the Florida State Health Department and is asking officials to act to avoid further infection. She also wants Pompano Beach officials to place signs warning other beachgoers.
“It’s horrible and it’s so painful. He’s been through so much pain,” she said. “I don’t ever want anyone else to suffer like this. I posted this on Facebook to warn people that this can happen. I had no idea this could happen. I’m 54-years-old. I don’t wear shoes on the beach. I wear flip flops. I lay out my towel. I take off my flip flops. I don’t put my flips flops on until I leave the beach. I think that’s what everyone does.”
Dumas says a woman at the Florida Health Department told her it’s common knowledge that “everybody knows you’re supposed to wear shoes on the beach.”
WATN reached out to the health department asking for a statement and further comment. As of our deadline we did not hear back.
If you suspect you’ve been exposed to the hookworm parasite, seek medical attention immediately.