If anyone gets this new parasite, they could die. While the critter is not new to the world, it has only recently begun terrorizing residents in Southwest Florida. Officials are running scared that this flatworm, an invasive species from New Guinea, could become the next epidemic akin to Zika.
But if you spot this critter and stay away, you could be safe. But when you hear how one local Cape Coral resident found a New Guinea flatworm in their flowerpot, you’ll realize that this problem is closer to home than you’d ever like to admit.
Up until recently, authorities never thought they’d see this deadly creature roaming any parts of America. But now that Florida is infected, your hometown could be next.
“They’re a dark worm with a dorsal orange stripe down the center of their back,” agriculture agent Roy Beckford said, according to WFTX.
These worms hitched a ride with plants and produce that was shipped from the South Pacific. Because they were stowaways, shippers didn’t see them. But now that they’ve landed in Florida, they are making the Sunshine State their new home. And these New Guinea flatworms are thriving…
“I first saw one in my driveway … 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 Christopher McVoy told WPEC.
These flatworms don’t only harm humans. They target other mammals, too, like cats and mice. If these common animals catch the New Guinea flatworm, it is only a matter of time before they spread the killer parasite to humans. That’s why Florida authorities are terrified.
If a human catches the New Guinea flatworm, they can expect to experience a serious disease of the brain and spinal cord, including meningitis. Unless they seek medical attention quickly and remain vigilant.
“If you have long worms, basically you start this horrible coughing,” Beckford said. “It’s a parasite in your lungs that needs to be treated.”
Just coming into contact with one of these worms could spell disaster…