“My sister has been sick with some type of parasite bug,” begins this reader, who writes to us about a parasite that she believes has infected multiple members of her family. Her sister in particular has faced the worst of it, and our reader hopes that we can help.
It is only fair that we start off by saying that while we will help in all the ways we can, we cannot give any direct medical advice, such as diagnosing the problem, as we are not medical professionals. Only a medical professional has the qualifications and expertise to identify the parasite and treat the infection. So, what we can help with is providing some resources where our reader’s sister can — hopefully — get the help she requires.
First off, we will lay out the context of the situation. Our reader’s sister lives in the countryside in Oregon on marshy acreage with two “indoor/outdoor” cats, and there tends to be a lot of vermin around “due to the brush.” She believes she may have had these ‘parasite bugs’ for over a year at this point. The bugs have a “terrible” bite and stick to any surface, especially hard surfaces. They have gotten into the sister’s food, and will live in her car for days.
According to our reader, the bugs infecting her sister take “many shapes and forms and buries in your skin and bites.” Her mother has attempted to treat her sister using Lysol (a disinfectant), “ripping out all materials in the home”, neem oil (an organic pesticide), unspecified “parasite homeopathic tinctures”, diatomaceous earth (a sedimentary rock often rendered into a powder), horsehair dewormer (from the local farm store), and white vinegar. Our reader has not seen the progression of the infection herself, but as the bug has infested multiple of her family members, she has been able to piece together some of the stages of the infection. Her mother states that, once the infestation starts, the larvae can be found in one’s faeces. After that, they lay “nits” (eggs or young larvae) all over one’s skin as they did our reader’s sister. “At one stage they look like black bugs and love your hair.” At another stage the bugs are hairy, small and white in color (this stage is depicted in the photograph above). They come off one’s skin in the shower and resemble “small slugs.” Additionally, “weird worms come out from your feet.”
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As our reader’s sister has been dealing with this infection the longest, “her symptoms have progressed and she is full of this parasite.” She has nits in her mouth and throat and our reader states “we fear she may not live too much longer if we don’t get an answer.” Her sister has seen various GPs on multiple occasions who have all told her it is “mental,” despite three other family members also experiencing the same infection. They have reached out to infectious disease physicians, but they refuse to see her without a referral and they are fully booked for up to a year. Our reader fears her sister may not even have that long.
Now, as we said, only a medical professional can provide the help our reader’s sister and family needs. Her sister has clearly already reached out for medical help but unfortunately been turned away. What she must understand is that most GPs do not receive training in parasitology and so do not know what to do in these situations. Unfortunately, instead of admitting this and referring their patients to an infectious disease physician, many will simply dismiss their patients as being delusional or will not take them seriously at all. We recommend that the sister reaches out to Dr. Vipul Savaliya at idcarepa.com. Dr. Savaliya is the founder of IDCare and accepts online consultations, meaning one does not have to visit his office in North Carolina to receive medical help! Likewise, the PCI (Parasitology Center Inc.) is generally a great resource for all things parasites, and if our reader wishes to, she can order a comprehensive stool sample to check for any intestinal parasite or contact Dr. Omar Amin for medical help. We also recommend that our reader’s sister keeps any samples of the parasites in clear containers so that she can show them to whichever physician she gets in contact with.
Lastly, we urge our reader’s sister to be wary of home remedies. Though it is very virtuous of their mother to try to help, one cannot know what potential side effects some treatments may have, especially when one does not know what the problem is. In addition to this, these are definitely not horsehair worms. We can only say this because horsehair worms rarely ever infect mammals; they only infect insects and other invertebrates.
To conclude, we sympathize with our reader and her family. It is very hard to deal with an issue when you do not know exactly what it is, and even harder when the people who are supposed to help you are unavailable. We sincerely hope our reader’s sister and the rest of her family have better luck with the resources we have provided and that they can get the help they need as soon as possible.