Parasites can really get under your skin.
Beca Henrikus avoided them, but her husband, a friend and Henrikus' sister- and brother-in-law all ended up with swimmer's itch after an outing at Wavecrest Park along Carter Lake.
“They couldn't stop itching,” Henrikus said. “The itching cream, nothing was working.”
A few cases of swimmer's itch were reported in mid-May by people who had been in Carter Lake.
Last year, after swimmer's itch was reported at Lake Okoboji, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources issued a statement notifying the public of the reports. The department soon will issue a similar statement about Carter Lake, a spokesman said Thursday.
Henrikus said the group headed to Wavecrest Park on Memorial Day. Henrikus and her two young children stayed on shore, but the other adults got in the water.
The itching started shortly after they got out, Henrikus said.
Henrikus said her husband, Daniel, took a shower as soon as he got back to the family's Council Bluffs home, but the itching continued. On Wednesday, she said, welts started to appear on his torso and arms. Henrikus compared them to chicken pox: She said some were as large as a dime.
It takes a few steps for parasites that cause the condition to develop, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A parasite that lives in the blood of infected birds and mammals produces eggs that are passed in the animals' feces.
If the eggs land in or are washed into the water, the CDC says, the eggs hatch, releasing microscopic larvae. These larvae swim in the water in search of a certain species of aquatic snail.
If the larvae find one of these snails, the CDC says, they infect the snail, multiply and undergo further development.
Infected snails then release a different type of microscopic larvae into the water. The larvae swim around searching for a suitable host to continue the life cycle. They sometimes burrow into human swimmers' skin, but because the larvae can't develop inside a human, they soon die. But they can leave itching and welts behind.
A doctor gave Daniel Henrikus cream to apply to the welts, but his wife said it's tough for him to keep from scratching them.
Itching may last a week or more, the CDC said, but gradually will go away.
The CDC says people shouldn't swim in areas where swimmer's itch is a known problem. If they do get in the water, they should towel dry or shower immediately after getting out.
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