A deadly parasitic worm originating from New Guinea has been found in South Florida and health officials have issued warnings out of concern.
According to WPEC, health and wildlife officials say the deadly Guinea Flatworm has been found in South Florida. The flatworm was first found in Miami last year, and now officials say the parasite has been found in Cape Coral as well.
A hotline has been set up to report any sightings of the flatworm. An agent told WPEC that she has already taken a half-dozen reports of sightings.
The worms look similar to slugs, with black on top and grey on the bottom. They are generally about 2 inches long.
“I first saw one in my driveway right about where we are standing, about a year ago in June, and I happened to do a little research and got in touch with a researcher in Paris at the Museum of Natural History and he said, ‘wow haven’t seen any that far north,” environmental scientist and Lake Worth city commissioner Christopher McVoy told WPEC.
Since the first sighting on his driveway, McVoy says he has spotted to other flatworms in his garden. The flatworms are often found in gardens and potted plants.
According to WFTX, the worms carry a deadly parasite and when the parasite is passed onto rats or mice, it can then be easily passed on to humans, which can lead to deadly diseases affecting the brain and/or spinal cord. If rats or mice eat the worms, their droppings can contaminate the air.
Roy Beckford, an agriculture agent who works with the University of Florida, has warned of the dangers of coming into contact with the worms. He says that if you ever see a flatworm, do not touch it.
“It can actually cause problems on your skin because it actually vomits up this caustic substance that can cause problems,” Beckford told WFTX.
Officials say the best way to kill the deadly worms is to pour boiling water over them.
Sources: WPEC, WFTX / Photo Credit: WFTX