Morgellons Crawling Sensation – Some say Symptoms Caused by Sick Animals
By: Nicole Brochu
The symptoms are maddening enough: persistent itching, crawling and biting sensations, lesions and rashes, thin fibers and black specks growing on and out of the skin, fatigue, joint pain, memory loss, confusion. And then there’s the isolation and rejection that come with an illness most believe doesn’t really exist.
The frustrated thousands — largely clustered in Florida, Texas and California— suffering from this mysterious skin condition describe it as a living hell.
It’s a hell that has a name: Morgellon’s disease. But that’s hardly comforting for the afflicted, since most of the medical community dismisses the condition as a psychosomatic disorder that lives in the mind, not the body, and they all too often insist there is no treatment outside psychotherapy.
“A lot of people acted like I was nuts,” said one long-time sufferer, a Palm Beach County woman in her mid-50s who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the stigma of a disease many consider a mental illness and concern for how she’d be treated if her bosses discovered her ailment.
“I’ve been everywhere looking for a diagnosis, and I’ve seen doctor after doctor. Everyone kept telling me there was nothing wrong with me.”
After a year of dead-ends, she finally found a believer, and a treatment, in Dr. Neelam Uppal, a Pinellas Park infectious disease specialist who is not only convinced Morgellon’s is real, she’s identified it is a parasitic disease passed on by an all-too-common host: the family pet.
Animals do not typically pass on diseases to humans. But when it comes to parasites, they can become a virulent “intermediate host,” Uppal said. With parasites living and breeding in warm weather climates like Florida, and thriving in nearby bodies of water, the environment becomes a toxic soup ripe for the transfer. Pets pick up the parasites outdoors, then spread parasitic illnesses through dropped feces that pet owners either step in or somehow get on their skin.
Of the 600 or so patients Uppal has treated since 2005, she says 90 percent of them have a history of living with pets who had been sick.
The Palm Beach County woman is one of them. She first came down with symptoms after taking in a stray kitten that had worms.
“These patients are not delusional,” Uppal said. “This is a real problem.”