Got An Itch?


An invasive snail recently discovered in San Francisco Bay has brought along its own unwelcome stowaway: a parasitic worm responsible for only the second known outbreak of “swimmer’s itch” along the Pacific Coast of the United States.

Swimmer’s itch, or cercarial dermatitis, normally crops up in freshwater. It is an immune system reaction caused when a certain type of parasite emerges from snail shells and attempts to burrow into a host’s skin. Usually, the parasite – a microscopic flatworm with a forked tail – bores into the legs and feet of birds, hitches a ride in the bloodstream and settles in the intestines to breed.

Got An Itch?

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