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Heading for a beach vacation? Beware the hookworm

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Seven Mile Beach in Negril, Jamaica is “legendary for its silky white sands,” proclaims a hotel website.

But for four friends who spent a week at the beach resort last month, those sands yielded a hidden horror: hookworms that attacked their feet and disrupted their lives for weeks.

Within days of her return home in mid-October, Tara Benedek says she developed vibrant red squiggly lines accompanied by excruciating itchiness and burning in her feet. She was left in tears and unable to sleep.

“I swear I could feel them moving,” recalls the registered nurse from Oro-Medonte near Barrie. “If there was a saw by my bed, I would have taken my feet off.”

Two weeks later she was still off work and unavailable to her family due to exhaustion from “zero sleep.”

Benedek and three others from a group of 20 friends who vacationed in Negril had become unwitting hosts to a parasite called cutaneous larva migrans or hookworm — named for its hooklike mouth parts.

Normally found in the innards of infected dogs and cats, the worms can burrow into human skin that comes in contact with sand contaminated by feces containing larvae.

“They migrate around the skin saying ‘where the hell are we?’ ”says Dr. Jay Keystone, a travel and tropical medicine specialist in Toronto. In addition to agonizing itchiness, the infection can cause swelling, blisters and insomnia from the constant torment.

A secondary infection can occasionally set in but otherwise the worms don’t cause serious problems or find their way into human intestines, says Keystone. Left alone, they eventually die but that can take months, he adds.

Ivermectin, an oral medication used to treat the infection, has only just come on the market in Canada, says Keystone, who hopes it will be widely available at pharmacies in a month or two.

He recommends avoiding contact with sand or soil by wearing water shoes on the beach — sandals are no help — and lying on a lounge chair rather than directly on the sand. There’s no preventive medication for hookworm.

The infection is “very common,” with dozens of vacationers, usually from the Caribbean, showing up at Toronto General Hospital’s Tropical Disease Unit over the fall and winter travel season, Keystone says.

That’s where Benedek and her friends ended up after their quest for treatment opened a whole other can of worms when family doctors and walk-in clinics proved incapable of properly diagnosing or treating the affliction.

“Even the physicians we dealt with were Googling it,” says Benedek.

One doctor blamed an allergic reaction to sand fleas while others prescribed a drug that was useless.

Brigitte May, another member of the group, says health-care providers at a clinic she went to responded with “oh, cool!”

May, a 55-year-old auto assembly line worker from Milton, missed a week of work because of the “very painful” condition affecting the bottoms and toes of both feet.

“It’s been the most horrifying experience, going through this physically, emotionally and mentally,” she says, realizing in hindsight that the non-contagious infection “is not a walk-in clinic thing.”

At the Tropical Disease Unit, the women were diagnosed immediately and given prescriptions for Ivermectin along with a topical medication to ease the symptoms.

The friends say they received no warnings here or in Jamaica about the health risk, and even their travel agent was unaware of it.

“I went for runs on the beach barefoot and didn’t think anything of it,” says Benedek, who celebrated her 37th birthday on her holiday.

May says dogs running loose were a common sight during her long barefoot walks every morning.

“What about kids building sandcastles on the beach?” she wonders.

But Daniela Pons, operations manager at the Grand Pineapple Beach Resort where they stayed, insists stray dogs aren’t a problem there and she’s never received any complaints about hookworm infections.

“We do everything we can to keep our beach clean,” including raking it, she told the Star.

Hamilton family physician Walter Owsianik, who bills himself as “The Travel Doctor,” calls it a “nuisance infection” that could be avoided by staying around the pool where it’s safer.

He acknowledges the affliction also has a psychological impact.

“If you tell (patients) it’s a worm, they get all freaky,” he says. “I reassure them they’re not going to die from it.”

The Association of Canadian Travel Agencies advises winter sunseekers to talk to their travel agent in advance and Google their destination to learn what diseases and health issues may pose a threat.

The 1,500-member national trade association hasn’t received any complaints about hookworm, according to spokesperson Marco Pozzobon.

Still, the infected friends say they won’t take any chances on repeating their Negril nightmare.

“I’ll never, ever walk barefoot on the beach again,” swears Benedek.

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Post-vaccine surge? Michigan’s spring coronavirus case spike close to previous year’s autumn high

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(Natural News) The spike in new Wuhan coronavirus infections recorded in Michigan over the spring is similar to a spike seen during the 2020 fall season. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the state’s daily coronavirus case count averaged more than 7,000 for almost two weeks – before taking a slight dip to 6,891 on April 20. This echoed similar figures back in November and December 2020, which saw sharp rises in infections for those two months before plunging.

Back in autumn of last year, Michigan averaged more than 7,000 cases per day for a span of 10 days. New infections dropped slightly, then briefly spiked as the December holidays approached. It then fell to the low 1,000s for the succeeding two months – until ascending again in March.

According to University of Michigan internal medicine professor Dr. Vikas Parekh, the sudden increase in new infections could be attributed to several factors. Among the factors he cited was re-openings, which increased people’s interactions and mobility. Parekh said the loosened restrictions contributed to the spread of the highly contagious U.K. B117 variant.

“As the B117 variant spreads nationally, we will likely see other stats [with] their own surges – although I hope none are as bad as Michigan,” the professor remarked. He continued: “The milestone just tells us we are not yet in the clear, especially as we still have large portions of our population who are not vaccinated yet.”

Parekh also expressed optimism over the lower daily caseloads the Great Lakes State reported. He said he believes both cases and hospitalizations have plateaued and will likely decline soon. The professor commented: “[COVID-19] positivity has been declining now for one week, which is usually a leading indicator of case decline.”

Meanwhile, the state cited younger populations and youth sports, such as basketball, wrestling and hockey, to increase new COVID-19 infections. Because of this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called to suspend youth sports and indoor dining in the state. She also exhorted high schools to conduct remote class sessions for two weeks to curb the spread of the pathogen.

Michigan still experienced the spike in cases despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country

During the opening stages of the U.S.’s immunization drive against COVID-19, Michigan boasted of having one of the highest vaccination rates nationwide. A report by Bridge Michigan even noted the initial “frenzy for vaccines” that “far exceeded the state’s limited supply.” But things have appeared to turn around for Michigan, as it now struggles to reach the 70 percent vaccination rate needed for herd immunity.

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Scottish mom’s legs turn into a pair of “giant blisters” after first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine

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(Natural News) Sarah Beuckmann of Glasgow, Scotland, felt a tingling sensation in her legs and noticed a rash flaring up around her ankles a week after getting her first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on March 18.

She also had flu-like symptoms right after the vaccination.

Beuckmann called her doctor to arrange an appointment the morning she noticed the rash, but by the afternoon her skin was already breaking out into blood-filled blisters. Blisters also appeared on her legs, hands, face, arms and bottom.

“I ended up asking my husband to take me to A&E,” said Beuckmann, referring to “accident and emergency,” the equivalent of an emergency room (ER). “When I got there, my heart rate was sitting at 160bpm, which they were very concerned about. I got put on an ECG machine.”

Doctors determine AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine triggers the rash

Medics carried out tests for HIV, herpes and other skin conditions to work out what triggered the rash, but all results came back negative. Doctors finally determined that the vaccine caused her rare reaction after carrying out two biopsies.

“Once they found that it was a reaction to the vaccine, they put me on steroids and that really seems to be helping my progress,” said Beuckmann. She had been advised by her doctor not to get the second dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine because of her reaction.

Beuckmann spent 16 days at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. She was discharged to recover at home. The 34-year-old mother of one is currently wheelchair-bound due to the bandages on her legs and blisters on the soles of her feet. She may need physiotherapy to help strengthen her leg muscles.

“They are starting to heal and they’re looking a lot better than they were but as the blisters started to get worse, they all sort of merged together,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

With the blisters merging, her legs have looked like a pair of “giant blisters.” Beuckmann admitted that at one point she feared her legs might have to be amputated.

Dermatologist agrees COVID-19 vaccine causes the blisters

Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a consultant dermatologist and spokeswoman at the British Skin Foundation, agreed that Beuckmann had likely suffered a reaction to the vaccine.

“Vaccines are designed to activate the immune system. Occasionally people will have quite dramatic activation of their immune systems which, as happened in this case, can manifest in their skin” Wedgeworth told MailOnline. “This poor lady had a very severe reaction, which thankfully is extremely rare.”

It is not clear why Beuckmann, who works in retail, was invited for a vaccine. Scotland’s vaccine rollout was focused on people over the age of 50 when she got vaccinated, although vaccines are available to those who are considered at risk from the virus, or live with someone considered vulnerable.

At least 20 million Briton have had AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which drug regulators say causes a rash in one percent of cases. They say rashes caused by the jab tend to go away within a week.

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Trojan labs? Chinese biotech company offers to build COVID testing labs in six states

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In 2012, BGI acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company and equipment maker. The funds for the $117.6 million purchase were raised from Chinese venture capitals. The company has expanded its footprint globally. According to its website, BGI conducts business in more than 100 countries and areas and has 11 offices and labs in the U.S.

People are concerned about China’s access to American DNA data

Some said that with Complete Genomics providing an American base, BGI would have access to more DNA samples from Americans, helping it compile a huge database of genetic information. Some also worried about the protection of the genetic information’s privacy.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), BGI “has formed numerous partnerships with U.S. healthcare providers and research organizations to provide large-scale genetic sequencing to support medical research efforts,”

There are three main reasons why many people in the biotech community and government have expressed concerns about China’s access to American DNA data.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Evanina discussed the very likely scenario in which Chinese companies would be able to micro-target American individuals and offer customized preventative solutions based on their DNA.

Evanina asked: “Do we want to have another nation systematically eliminate our healthcare services? Are we okay with that as a nation?”

The second concern is that China may use DNA to track and attack American individuals. As the USCC report states: “China could target vulnerabilities in specific individuals brought to light by genomic data or health records. Individuals targeted in such attacks would likely be strategically identified persons, such as diplomats, politicians, high-ranking federal officials or military leadership.”

The third concern is that China may devise bioweapons to target non-Asians. Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, discussed it in his article “What Will China Do With Your DNA?” published by The Epoch Times in March 2019.

He wrote: “We know that the Asian genome is genetically distinct from the Caucasian and African in many ways. … Would it be possible to bioengineer a very virulent version of, say, smallpox, that was easily transmitted, fatal to other races, but to which the Chinese enjoyed a natural immunity? … Given our present ability to manipulate genomes, if such a bio-weapon can be imagined, it can probably – given enough time and resources – be realized.”

An article from Technocracy said: “China’s aggressive collection of American DNA should be doubly alarming because it can only spell one ultimate outcome: biowarfare. That is, genetically engineering viruses or other diseases that will be selectively harmful to U.S. populations.”

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