Australian teen infected with flesh-eating bug after consuming undercooked food

Helen Wellings

An Australian teenager who had a flesh-eating parasite living in her body for six years is finally free of the terrible pain it caused.

Now she wants other Australians who travel overseas to know they could also be at risk if they eat undercooked food.

Carly Goff's six years of hell began on a holiday in Fiji where she ate undercooked fish contaminated with a flesh-eating parasite.

Carly's nightmare began after a holiday in Fiji. Source: 7 News
Carly's nightmare began after a holiday in Fiji. Source: 7 News

"I was so sick and I was in so much pain," Carly told Seven News.

"Burning feet. Burning face. It feels like an acid ... I've also got like tearing muscles. I feel like my muscles are being torn to shreds."

After years of tests, Carly was finally diagnosed as having a potentially deadly parasitic worm Gnathostomiasis.

The parasite is most commonly found in Southeast Asia – especially Thailand – as well as South and Central America and parts of Africa.

Carly had been infected with a parasitic worm after eating undercooked fish. Source: 7 News
Carly had been infected with a parasitic worm after eating undercooked fish. Source: 7 News

It's contracted from undercooked or raw freshwater fish, chicken, eels, frogs, and reptiles.

Royal North Shore Hospital's travel health expert Dr Bernard Hudson said the parasite can embed itself in any of the body’s organs and systems.

"It can invade any organ system, it can go through your lungs, it can go through your brain, even get into your bladder, your liver, anywhere."

Travel health experts warn tourists to stay away from undercooked foods in areas prone to the bug. Source: 7 News
Travel health experts warn tourists to stay away from undercooked foods in areas prone to the bug. Source: 7 News

Eventually, the burrowing parasite became visible under the skin on Carly’s hand.

"It has teeth, it moves around by chewing through tissues and muscles, and destroys wherever it goes," Carly said.

In the two months since the diagnosis, Carly has been treated with worm tablets which starve the parasite, and she is finally on the road to good health.

Carly is finally on the road to recovery. Source: 7 News
Carly is finally on the road to recovery. Source: 7 News

Dr Hudson warned: "When you're travelling overseas, be careful what you eat and drink.”

"We have a little aphorism: boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it. If you are eating uncooked food, you are taking a risk."