After encountering a young girl with flesh-eating parasites in her scalp, a biologist is offering his advice on how to avoid contracting a deadly disease.
In the new season of Animal Planet’s Monsters Inside Me, Dr. Dan Riskin analyzed some of the most gruesome parasites and infections.
In the case of 12-year-old Brianna Skeirik, her mother knew there was a problem when her daughter had “20 little bumps” on her head while abroad with her family. They had been in Colombia, volunteering at a local orphanage.
The mom, Joy, said she insisted on cutting the trip short after she noticed the bumps on her daughter’s head.
“I thought Brianna had some poisoning earlier, but in my gut, I felt like there was something more going on,” she explained. “I wanted to get home to the United States.”
On the plane home, Joy said the bumps had “burst and were oozing clear liquid and blood,” as if someone had taken a pencil and stabbed her daughter multiple times on her scalp, a friend described.
By the time they arrived to the doctor straight from the airport, they could hear the “bumps” moving around on the little girl’s head.
Doctors eventually discovered Brianna had the New World screwworm, a flesh-eating parasite, chewing away at her scalp.
It may seem like something out of a horror story, but it's all too real on Monsters Inside Me.
“We do not have to try to come up with some sort of disgusting supernatural thing,” Dr. Riskin joked in an interview with InsideEdition.com. “Nature is worse than anything you can make up.”
“It’s not very likely to happen to an everyday person,” he added. “That’s what makes it so scary.”
Although conditions such as Brianna’s seem rare, Dr. Riskin offered his tips and tricks to lower one’s chances of contracting a parasite.
His first tip: "Wash your hands before you prepare food and wash your hands after you go to the bathroom. That’ll avoid you so many things."
Dr. Riskin also said many cases of parasites happen to those who travel to foreign countries. Instead of avoiding travel, he suggested doing some research before getting on a plane.
“All you have to do is read a little bit about what to expect when you get there,” he said. “If you know what parasites are out there, you can defend yourself adequately.”
For example, Dr. Riskin said those traveling to Madagascar can lower chances of contracting malaria by wearing long sleeves, long pants and spraying mosquito repellant.
And, when deciding on a trip to a lake, always choose the cooler option.
“Brain-eating amoeba lives in warm, fresh water and normally lives its life in the mud, decomposing things,” Riskin explained. “It’s super rare but it’s happening more and more commonly in warm bodies of fresh water due to climate change.”
He warned that if water containing brain-eating amoeba is forced up a swimmer’s nose, it could make its way up to the brain. By the time the parasite shows symptoms, there’s nothing doctors can do, he said.
“Personally I would not want to fall down waterskiing in a warm lake,” Riskin said.
The new season of 'Monsters Inside Me' premieres Sunday, October 15 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.