14 worms removed from woman's eye — CDC identifies infection with parasite previously unseen in humans

In August 2016, CDC investigators identified the first human case of an infection involving eye worms in a 26-year-old woman, according to a case study published Monday in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Here are five things to know.

1. The species of eye worm, Thelazia gulosa, had only previously been found in the eyes of cattle. The worms are transmitted to the eyes via flies that feed on tears and other secretions and carry worm larvae.

2. In the weeks before her infection, Abby Beckley spent time walking through cattle fields in southern Oregon. It is possible this is where the parasitic exposure occurred.

3. In total, Ms. Beckley had 14 translucent worms removed from her eye, extracting one about a half-inch long on her own after experiencing eye irritation, according to a report from The Washington Post.

4. Human infections with eye worms are rare. Prior to Ms. Beckley's case, only two species of Thelazia eye worms had been previously identified in human eyes. Ms. Beckley's case marks the first reported case of thelaziasis in North America in more than 20 years.

5. Eye worm infections cause inflammation, but symptoms subside upon removal. Serious infections can result in scarring of the cornea and even blindness.

More articles on infection control: 
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Antibiotic prescriptions drop in nursing homes with hand hygiene intervention 
Why infectious disease physicians are best suited to lead antimicrobial stewardship efforts

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