People traveling from the United States to a foreign country may have to worry about getting certain vaccinations depending on which country they intend to visit. Travelers know that in some countries you must take precautions against diseases like malaria, intestinal bacteria and hepatitis. What most travelers don’t know is that infection with hookworm is one of the most dangerous plagues that travelers face.
Hookworms inhabit fecal matter. In places where there is poor sanitation, water runoff can mix with fecal matter and contaminate the soil. When a person walks across the contaminated ground without shoes on, the hookworms can burrow into the feet. From there, they make their way to the intestinal track where they can remain for years causing wasting.
Hookworms infect over 700 million people worldwide. Infestations are most prevalent in Sub-Saharan African countries, Central and South America, the Caribbean and some underdeveloped parts of Asia. Hookworms used to be very prevalent in the southern part of the United States, but they are limited now to parts of Alabama.
Most hookworm infestations in travelers from the United States occur when people walk on the beach barefoot. However, going barefoot anywhere in a place with infestation can cause a problem.
While hookworm can be a major problem, an infestation is preventable and treatable if it occurs. To prevent hookworms, one should always wear shoes when walking in countries with hookworm infestation. Travelers should also thoroughly wash their feet after coming in from a walk on the beach.
If persons have traveled to a country were hookworm is present, they should consult with a physician if they notice sores in their feet or if they notice diarrhea and loss of weight. Doctors can prescribe medications that will eliminate hookworms completely from the system, but it may take some time.