“My husband and I have been battling parasites and doctors for two years now,” says this reader, who reaches out to us in a desperate time in which her health is declining and she is not getting the help she needs. Our reader and her husband have been diagnosed with strongyloidiasis, Morgellons and some type of filarial infection, among other things.
As our reader understands already that we will not be able to provide any direct medical advice, as we are not medical professionals, we will not bother with our usual statement regarding this issue. We will instead start by simply retelling our reader’s story for those of our other readers who might relate to it and either understand that they too need to seek medical help, or just feel comforted in knowing that they are not alone.
Our reader and her husband have both been struggling with health-related problems for two years. They were first diagnosed with strongyloidiasis (a chronic parasitic infection), eczema (a skin condition that causes redness and irritation), “possible psychosis” (a mental disorder which generally involves losing touch with reality), Morgellons (a skin condition characterized by sores from which various matter is discharged), and delusional parasitosis (a mental disorder constituting one being convinced that they have a parasitic and/or fungal infection without actually having one), “just to name a few.” After all of this, they were also diagnosed with filariasis (a parasitic infection of filarial worms) and recommended to check out Mayo Clinic (a reputable nonprofit medical center). Our reader was then able to find a doctor that believed them and tried to treat them “empirically.” That was until the pandemic started and her husband lost his job.
“We are farmers on the outskirts of Fort Worth [TX],” continues our reader. She mentions that when this all started, she “only had enough knowledge on the microscope of parasites to be able to look for eggs in goat poop.” She is now “getting tired and losing steam,” and understandably so. Her first question to us is about her delusional parasitosis. “I know y’all can’t help me with the medical side of this but surely you can tell me if these delusional worms will ever go be delusional somewhere else and leave us alone.” We will finish recounting all of the context before addressing any of the questions.
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The second inquiry made by our reader concerns claims made by the CDC and WHO about the nature of the parasitic infections our reader was diagnosed with. According to our reader, these claims state that “United States Citizens without a travel history cannot get these parasitic diseases here.” She has been trying to find other sources that substantiate these claims but has been unsuccessful, and asks us if we have found any such sources. She adds that the fact they are farmers “should have alerted someone in infectious disease but it didn’t.” Our reader also contacted her extension office to ask them “if they had the most recent vector surveillance data,” and they responded by recommending them to contact the state representative, who then did not respond to our reader’s attempts at contacting them.
One of the reasons our reader asks that we help her find sources that back up the claims made by the CDC and WHO is because of her ongoing battle with Uveitis (a form of inflammation of the eye), and so she has trouble reading at times. She concludes her submission by saying that she hopes to hear back from us and see her story posted, and that “if anyone would like anymore details [she] would love to provide them.”
With regard to her first question, this is not something we can answer her on with 100% confidence or credibility. As our reader already knows, we are not medical professionals, so it is not our place to tell our reader if her delusions may go away or not. What we can point to is JAMA Network’s dematology page where they chronicle examples of successful treatments of delusional parasitosis, showing that it can indeed be treated if the work is put in. It should be noted that as this is a mental disorder, it takes the work of not only the doctors and psychiatrists to treat this problem, but the patient too. Mental disorders are very subjective and so it is impossible for anyone to say when or if such a disorder might ever “leave [our reader] alone”, as she put it.
When it comes to our reader’s second question, we are not sure what kind of answers our reader is hoping for. Firstly, we would assume that our reader does not have a travel history, because otherwise she would not be asking about these claims made by the CDC and WHO. Secondly, we would assume she does not agree with said claims, seeing as her language when describing the doctor who “believed” her about her parasites suggests that she does not consider these delusions, and so does not think that these parasitic infections are exclusive to US citizens who do have a travel history. Given these assumptions, we would make a third assumption that our reader was hoping that we would not find other sources that substantiate these claims. And yet, she repeated this question twice in her query and has been wearing herself out looking for more citations that back up these claims. This is all a long-winded way of saying that we did not find sources that specifically agreed with the CDC and WHO, but instead found sources that stated facts to the contrary, and we do not know if that is a comfort or a curse to our reader.
Out of all the diagnoses our reader and her husband received, the two of them which are parasitic are strongyloidiasis and filariasis. Many make the mistake of calling Morgellons a parasitic infection when it is not, and this is likely because some of the symptoms overlap with delusional parasitosis. When it comes to strongyloidiasis, the NCBI states that while Strongyloides stercoralis (the nematode which causes the infection) is native to “tropical regions” such as “Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin American,” it is “also endemic in southeastern United States.” It goes on to say that most cases in the US are in immigrants or veterans who have been overseas, but the key word here is “most”, which implies that it is definitely not all. Now, when it comes to filariasis, it gets a little more complicated. The NCBI’s article on zoonotic filariasis lists several types of filarial worms that can cause the infection, and our reader did not specify which type she was diagnosed with. Either way, there are various types of filarial worms found across the United States, from the Dilofilaria tenus found in raccoons to the Dirofilaria subdermata found in porcupines. This shows that filarial worms, and thus filariasis can most definitely be contracted within the United States with or without a travel history.
Before we wrap up this article, we wish to make one more comment on our reader’s situation and perhaps aid her in finding the help she needs. It is unclear whether the diagnoses she and her husband were given were by the same doctor or multiple, but it is very strange that our reader has been diagnosed with psychosis and delusional parasitosis along with actual parasitic infections. One would think that if a medical professional diagnosed someone with a parasitic infection, they would not also be told that they are making it up. Of course, there could very well be more context to this situation that we are not privy to, but if our reader has any additional information that would clear this up, we would appreciate it. What we will say is that it seems our reader needs some real answers about what her situation really is and what she can do about it.
As opposed to going to her doctor, there are actually a few alternatives for treating specifically parasitic infections. First, our reader can consult the ASTMH (the ‘American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene’), where they have a service that locates infectious disease physicians within the given area of the patient! Likewise, she can search for a local parasitologist by doing a Google search for “medical parasitologist (Fort Worth)” or “tropical medicine specialist (Forth Worth)”. Additionally, the PCI (Parasitology Center Inc.) is generally a great resource for all things parasites, and if our reader wishes to, she can also contact Dr. Omar Amin via the website for any help relating to her problem. Lastly, our reader can contact Dr. Vipul Savaliya of Infectious Disease Care (“IDCare”) at idcarepa.com, who was recommended by one of our own readers and does online consultations!
To conclude, we wish to thank our reader for sharing her story with us; it could potentially be very helpful to a lot of people, if not comforting for those going through something similar who does not feel seen. We appreciate that she is aware we cannot give her any direct medical advice, and we hope that this article was somewhat informative nonetheless. Finally, we end this article with a quote from our reader’s submission which speaks for itself. “I do understand that you are not allowed to tell us a whole lot,” our reader says, “I would just like to know that through our morbidity, people are aware of the hidden parasite problem here in the US.”