Unusual Beach Walk Leaves Couple Troubled by Their Feet, Denied Assistance by Doctors

Eddie Zytner and Katie Stephens embarked on what was supposed to be a romantic getaway to the Dominican Republic, only to find themselves in a state of misery they could never have anticipated. Unaware of the risks involved, they innocently strolled barefoot on the beach, never imagining the horrors that awaited them upon their return home.

Like many of us, they had heard tales of vacationers returning with strange and terrible diseases, but they never thought it would happen to them. However, when Eddie and Katie’s feet became intensely itchy, they quickly realized this was no ordinary itch. To their shock, they discovered they were dealing with a full-blown infestation. It may sound like an urban legend, but as the disturbing images they shared clearly demonstrate, it was a harsh reality they were facing. Unfortunately, their troubles were just beginning.

Katie Stephens, 22, took to Facebook to warn others about their ordeal, accompanied by unsettling images that may be hard to bear for the faint-hearted. She urged anyone traveling to “somewhere tropical” to exercise caution on sandy beaches and advised the use of footwear.

In a straightforward manner, she revealed that both she and her 25-year-old boyfriend, Eddie, had returned from Punta Cana only to discover they had contracted larva migrans, or worms, in their feet. She urged people to seek immediate medical attention if they experience extreme itchiness in their feet, as they initially mistook it for bug bites, only for the condition to worsen throughout the day.

Cutaneous larva migrans (CLM), a skin condition caused by nematode parasites from the hookworm family, was the culprit. According to medical sources, these parasites enter the skin, resulting in CLM, which is the most common dermatosis acquired in tropical regions.

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While hookworms are predominantly found in tropical and subtropical areas, as well as the southern United States, they are no longer confined to these regions due to global travel. The worms can penetrate the skin when walking on warm, damp sand.

Itching is often the initial symptom, and despite initially attributing it to insect bites, Eddie and Katie’s discomfort only intensified. Within days, their condition escalated into a more serious state, marked by significant swelling, rashes, and blisters on their feet. Little did they know that this was just the beginning of their nightmare.

The couple sought medical assistance, consulting three different doctors before receiving a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. The doctor who eventually identified their condition had recently encountered a similar case involving another traveler. However, their ordeal was far from over.

Eddie confided in Katie, describing the sensation of having dozens of worms in his feet, a repulsive thought that disturbed them both. Moreover, even with a correct diagnosis, obtaining the necessary treatment proved challenging.

To add to their distress, Health Canada denied their request for the medication (ivermectin) required to treat their infection, forcing them to obtain it from the United States. Katie mentioned that Eddie’s mother had to travel to America to retrieve the prescription, leading her to sarcastically express gratitude to Canada for its “lovely healthcare.”

According to Dr. Daniel Caplivski, an associate professor of infectious diseases at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, individuals should always wear shoes when walking on the beach. While the sand between one’s toes may feel pleasant, the risk of parasite infections is not worth it. As the couple gradually recovered, they were left dependent on crutches, further complicating their barefoot beach stroll.

Despite the unsettling nature of the photographs they shared, Eddie and Katie posted them on social media to raise awareness about the risks of parasite-related illnesses during travel.