Imagine looking into your irritated eye for a pesky eyelash, only to pull out a translucent, wiggling worm nearly a half inch long.
"I looked at it, and it was moving," recalled 28-year-old Abby Beckley of Grants Pass, Oregon. "And then it died within about five seconds."
Now, imagine doing that not once but 14 times. That's what Beckley endured over a three-week period in August 2016. Her story, published Monday as a case report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is a historic one:
"This is only the 11th time a person has been infected by eye worms in North America, " explained lead author Richard Bradbury, who is the team lead for the CDC's Parasite Diagnostics and Biology Laboratory. "But what was really exciting it that it is a new species that has never infected people before. It's a cattle worm that somehow jumped into a human."