Beachgoers beware? Pathogens that lurk in sand

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A trip to the beach can be the perfect way to pass a summer’s day. But as you search for a spot to place your towel, you should know you’re not just sharing the sand with fellow beach lovers — you’re sharing it with some pretty creepy critters, too. Although most microbes in the sand are harmless, some are linked with disease. Here are five types of pathogens found in sand.
Walking barefoot on a tropical beach may sound idyllic, but in some areas, you’ll want to be wary of hookworms, which are parasites that can infect both people and animals. Some species of hookworm that typically infect cats and dogs can be transmitted to people through sand or contaminated soil, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
This happens when infected animals defecate in sand or soil and pass hookworm eggs in their stool. People can then become infected if they walk barefoot or lie down on the infested sand or soil, the CDC says. Indeed, a Canadian couple recently revealed that they contracted hookworms in their feet while walking barefoot on a Caribbean beach.
The hookworm larvae can burrow into unprotected skin and then crawl around in the top layers of skin. However, because humans aren’t the normal hosts for these hookworms, the parasites usually don’t live more than six weeks in people, the CDC says.
The superbug MRSA is particularly problematic in hospitals, but the bacteria can also be found out in the environment, including on beaches, studies have found.
MRSA, which stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a type of staph bacteria that can cause skin infections and is resistant to several antibiotics. Some people can carry staph bacteria or even MRSA on their skin or in their noses without showing symptoms. (In the United States, about one-third of the population carries staph and 2 percent carries MRSA without showing symptoms.) But in other cases, such as when a person gets a cut or wound in their skin, the bacteria causes an infection.

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