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A Woman Found 14 Worms in Her Eyeball

If you’re a person who goes to an office job every day, you live in fear of getting sick. With so many people working in such close quarters, day in and day out, even a single person’s illness could spread to you so easily. Kinda makes you want to go work outside! The only catch: you might then have to contend with a bunch of parasitic worms living in your eyeball. That sounds far-fetched, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not; one woman in Oregon had irritation in her left eye and doctors eventually extracted 14 worms.

As The Washington Post reports, Abby Beckley had a red, itchy, irritated eye that wouldn’t go away. She noticed a foreign object that she thought was a stray eyelash or clear piece of fuzz. But when she pulled it out, it wriggled. It was a tiny parasitic worm, about half an inch long. Unlike what any of us (or, let’s be honest, me) would do, Beckley remained calm and reasoned that, since she was a deckhand on a commercial Alaskan salmon boat, maybe a common but harmless salmon worm had fallen into her eye. That alone would have sent me into a skin-crawling spiral… but it was worse.

After urgent care clinicians pulled out two more worms and an ophthalmologist yanked a further two, Beckley became increasingly alarmed. What was happening? Would she go blind? Would she, like I surely would, lose her cool and pull out her own eyeball with a pair of salad tongs? You don’t want worms to crawl into your brain, now do you? Well, as it turned out, after the Center for Disease Control got involved, they discovered the worms were of a species that had never been found in humans before; up to this case in 2016, Thelazia gulosa had only ever been found in cattle. The entire case study was published on Monday in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

By time it was all over, 14 worms total had been pulled out of Abby Beckley’s left eye.

Now before you start meticulously checking your corneas for hours before bed, you should know how these things work: flies eat worm larvae, then land on an animal’s eyes, where the flies feed on “tears and other secretions.” As this is going on, the flies deposit the larvae into the eyes of the animal, and the worms grow up to adulthood. I hasten to add, eye worms are very rare in humans, and only 10 cases have ever been counted in the U.S. However, knowing a cattle-only species can infect humanity doesn’t make me feel all that much better.

How many nightmares will you have about eyeball worms now? Let’s create a support group in the comments below.

Image: FX

Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist. You can find his film and TV reviews here. Follow him on Twitter!

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