A reader contacted us after finding tiny worms burrowing into her skin when snorkeling with manatees in Crystal River, Florida. When exiting the water in a shallow area called Jurassic Springs, she found one worm on top of her hand, and another on top of her foot. Naturally, this scared her, and she asks for our help in identifying the worms.
First and foremost, our reader goes into quite a bit of detail in regards to the situation she was in, mentioning the body of water in which she went snorkeling was fed by small springs and fresh water, and that she got verification from her friend that she was not just “seeing things”, but gives very little information as to the description of the worm, which makes it difficult to even begin to identify the worms. Secondly, she did not provide any visual information, which makes sense given the context of the situation, but this does not make attempts at identifying the worms any easier. Thirdly, given that this situation is medical in nature, there is not much information we actually can provide as we are not medical professionals, and thus we encourage our reader to seek a medical professional to receive an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.
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Furthermore, our reader did mention that she managed to remove the two worms she found before they completely burrowed into her skin. She added that she felt no pain when they did burrow down into her skin, and that they left no rash. However, given the fact that the descriptions of the worms themselves did not go beyond “tiny”, and no size comparison was provided, we do not have any idea as to the actual appearance of the worm. The only real clue we have as to what the worm could be is the fact that our reader was snorkeling in freshwater, but this still does not narrow it down much. The worms could be a number of things: leeches, flatworms, or nematodes, all parasitic ‘worms’ that can live in bodies of freshwater.
Fortunately for our reader, she did manage to pull out the two worms she found, but that is not to say that more of the worms could not have burrowed their way into her skin on areas of her body that are hard to see, especially since she felt no pain during the act. As previously mentioned, we recommend that our reader consults a medical professional, or even a parasite specialist to receive professional help. As we are not medical professionals, we are neither capable, nor qualified to give our reader the aid she needs. To consult a parasite specialist, she can do a Google search of either “infectious disease physician Crystal River Florida” (or wherever our reader may live), or “travel disease physician (name of her city).”
Additionally, our reader mentioned that neither her captain or tour guide knew what the worms were, even though they saw them. We urge our reader to share her experience, either by contacting the organization she booked her snorkeling through, or by leaving a review on the organization’s website (if they allow that), so that more people may be warned that this is a risk of snorkeling in these areas, or so that future captains and tour guides can be trained to identify potential parasites that are present in the water and act accordingly. As there is not much information on the internet regarding people finding parasitic worms in the bodies of water our reader was swimming in, our guess is that a decrease in the quality of water could have led to the introduction of new species into the water, or that some other fish carried the parasite and spread it to these parts that way.
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To conclude, we are not able to identify the worms our reader found burrowing into her skin after snorkeling in Florida given the reasons detailed in the article above. However, the situation calls for caution, and we urge our reader to contact a medical professional immediately.