Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Pale hands and feet
As you might imagine, South America is home to many parasites. Hookworm infections used to be very common in the Southeastern part of the US years ago but not so much these days. Living in the jungle, however, you come across them in unusual ways. In August, this little guy was admitted to the hospital with weakness and pallor. You can see how pale he was from the palms of his hands. He was found to have a hemoglobin of only 2! (it's a measure of a body's red blood cells and normally between 10 and 13 at this age). If this blood loss had happened acutely, he'd have gone into shock and died.
The cause of his anemia was quickly discovered to be related to a hookworm infection. Typically the larvae from contaminated soil burrows into the feet of a person and travels through the blood stream to the lungs where they migrate to the throat area and are swallowed. They then travel to the small intestine and set up shop - attaching themselves to the walls of the bowel and feeding off of the blood supply.
This infant was given a transfusion and proper parasite medicine and left doing much better. Education remains a big part of the treatment to help prevent reinfection.