After a Tennessee teenager's case of contracting hookworms during a South Florida trip went viral, health officials in Broward County are raising awareness following more reports of infections.
The Florida Department of Health in Broward County on Friday said it launched an investigation after receiving four reports of animal-associated hookworm infections.
"Residents and visitors are reminded to avoid walking barefoot and to use beach towels where animal waste may be present. Keep children and pets from ingesting soil or sand," the agency said in a statement.
A Tennessee mother posted photos of her 17-year-old son's infected feet on Facebook after he visited Pompano Beach during a mission trip in June. She said he was buried in the sand and became infected, along with four other people.
"He was buried in the sand for fun and it has become our nightmare," she wrote.
Hookworm is a parasite transmitted primarily by walking barefoot on soil or sand contaminated by animal waste, the health agency said.
The health officials urge residents to give pets veterinarian-recommended medications to prevent worm infections and to properly dispose of pet waste.
Symptoms of hookworm include itching and a localized rash. Animal-associated hookworm, which is treatable with medication, typically only affects the skin – but can persist for weeks if untreated, the agency added.
Health officials also urge residents to not walk pets on the beach and to avoid and not feed stray or wild animals.