Couple contracts parasites walking barefoot on Caribbean beach

A young Canadian couple who recently returned from the Dominican Republic is warning those who are planning to travel “somewhere tropical” about the risks of walking barefoot in the sand after coming home with “incredibly itchy” feet — which turned out to be parasites.


Katie Stephens, 22, of Ontario, told CTV News that while staying at the IFA Villas Bavaro Resort in Punta Cana, she and her boyfriend, 25-year-old Eddie Zytner, “found that we were scratching our feet quite a bit.”

She told the news station the two had heard about sand fleas and “kind of assumed it was that at first.”

After returning home on Jan. 18, Zytner noticed his feet had become very swollen and small bumps had developed on his toes.

Stephens wrote on Facebook that the couple “simply thought it was just bug bites and it became worse as each day passed.”

Two doctors were stumped by what was causing the swelling, but Zytner said a third doctor recognized the condition, as he had recently seen a similar case from a tourist who traveled to Thailand.

The couple, according to Stephens’ Facebook post, contracted larva migrans, known in layman’s terms as hookworms. She said she likely came into contact with the parasites while walking on the sandy beaches of their resort in Punta Cana.

A doctor prescribed the two ivermectin — a medicine used to kill worms developing in the body.

However, Stephens said Canada’s national public health department, Health Canada, denied their request for the medication because it’s not licensed in Canada — so her mother had to drive to Detroit, Michigan, to get the medicine.