GP warns why he doesn't lay on sand without a mat: 'New fear unlocked'

Northern Australian residents have been urged to be especially wary of this.

In rather unappealing news, a doctor has shared why he doesn't lay on the beach without a towel — something returning travellers and those in northern parts of Australia should be particularly aware of.

In his series called 'New Fear Unlocked', Samuel the GP recently delved into a medical condition called Cutaneous Larva Migrans, caused by hookworms burrowing in people's skin.

Referencing the well-reported case of 17-year-old Michael Dumas, the doctor shared how he got infected, creating a spider-like lesion on the skin.

A photo of Michael Dumas buried in sand at a Florida beach. A photo of Samuel the GP showing what the Cutaneous Larva Migrans infection looks like on someone's foot.
Samuel, a GP, (right) has warned of a skin condition caused by hookworms, referencing the well-reported case of 17-year-old Michael Dumas (left). Source: TikTok/skingapore

"He went to the beach with friends, was buried in the sand and then went home. That's when the nightmare started," Samuel said on TikTok. "At night he started to complain of itch. They initially brushed it off as an ear infection but then he started to feel more lethargic and he started to develop rashes, several of these on his buttocks.

"As the days progressed, more and more of these rashes appeared on his legs. That is when they went to see their doctor and he was diagnosed with cutaneous larva migrans, also known as hookworm from dogs. He made a full recovery with some anti-parasitic medication."

What are hookworms?

Found in cats and dogs, hookworms "are the most common feline and canine parasite in Australia", with "50 to 100 per cent" of those animals being infected in northern parts of the country, according to President for Australian Society for Parasitology, Rebecca Traub.

"People going to those areas should be careful that they don't expose their skin to soil or sand, which could be contaminated with dog and cat faeces," Professor Traub told Yahoo News Australia.

She said the type of hookworm Samuel speaks of — Ancylostoma Braziliense — is the "most severe form of cutaneous larva migrans".

"The most typical images we see online in reports is creeping eruptions," she said. "It appears like these raised reddened serpent like lesions that follow the path of the worm migrating through the skin."

"It's very itchy. These lesions can last for weeks to months, some for years if untreated. They require medical attention. They are mainly restricted to the far north tropics, but very common in southeast Asia, the Caribbean and southern United States."

'Classic' case in returning travellers

Doctor Heba Jibreal said this was a "classic case for dermatologists" which can usually be fixed with a "spot treatment" or anti-parasitic tablets. Given that it's a difficult condition to diagnose, preventative measures are recommended.

A photo of a 'no dogs' sign at Coolongatta Beach in Queensland. A photo of dogs on a beach.
Hookworms are commonly found on beaches, especially in northern Queensland, northern WA and the NT. Source: Getty

"You'll see signs on beaches that say dogs and cats not allowed — that's where strict health measures are playing a part in Australia," she told Yahoo News, explaining that deterring dogs from pooing in the area helps stop the spread hookworms.

She said cases of cutaneous larva migrans diagnosed in Australia are usually from overseas travellers, especially from Bali.

"If you're travelling especially to third world counties, I'd be very cautious. I'd make sure to wear my flip flops or other foot wear, carry a beach blanket, not lie on the sand and use a beach chair," Dr Jibreal added. "If you have symptoms, make sure you present to a health practitioner and say you were recently at a beach or overseas because it might be linked."

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