World first as woman contracts gruesome eye worms from cattle

The woman is thought to be the only person in the world to have contracted this particular eye disease. Source: Pexels (eye pictured isn't patient's eye)

If you’re the kind of person who feels squeamish when an eyelash falls into your eye, you may not want to continue reading this article.

A woman from Oregan in America thought this was the case when her eye suddenly became irritated, but doctors quickly discovered that 14 tiny worms had been crawling around in her left eye. The case, the first of its kind found in humans, is usually seen only in cattle.

A report published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene states that the 26-year-old lady contracted thelaziasis in 2016, a condition that impacts not only the eye tissue, but also tear ducts and eyelids. While the condition is known to affect cattle in Northern America, this is believed to be the first known case for humans.

There are only two other known eye worms that can impact humans. The first, Thelazia callipaeda, is found in Asia and some parts of Europe, while helazia californiensis has also been reported in America. Having said that, the new case is the first in more than 20 years to have been recorded in the United States. The worms are more common when people live in poor conditions and close to animals.

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The woman was said to be a lover of the outdoors and had practiced horsemanship in an area where cattle farming occurred prior to her infection. The woman’s symptoms and eye irritation gradually got worse and she discovered that something wasn’t quite right when she plucked a small and translucent worm from her eye.

The report suggests that two more worms were removed by a physician and an additional three by an optometrist, while the lady removed even more from her eye herself. In total, 14 were removed in a 20-day period.

Health professionals either flushed the worms out with water or removed them with tweezers. Because the worms were all less than half an inch long, it was impossible to remove them all at once. The worms also needed to make themselves visable in order to be removed, a tricky task when a lot of them bury themselves deep under the eyelid to feed on tears and moisture.

It is believed that the worms were transported to the woman’s eye by a face fly. The flies are known to live off the moisture in eyeballs and although don’t usually present any long-term damage, can be extremely irritation and painful.

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While most people are usually able to avoid contraction by swatting flies away, it’s believed that the woman may have been busy with her activities and unable to stop the flies from landing on her eye.

It isn’t the first time a disease has jumped from an animal species to humans, with viruses like anthrax, the Hendra virus, ringworm and cat-scratch disease just some of the conditions that can impact both animals and people.

What do you think? Are you worried about diseases jumping from animals to humans? What do you think is to blame?

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