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OMG…I just pooped a worm

April 6, 2014

Living where we do, many people fear things that are very unlikely – like being kidnapped, or having the lovely Lake Kivu explode in a methane ball of flame.  However, we’ve found that it’s the little stuff that gets ya.

Here is a brief summary of some our favorites so far.

OMG… I just pooped a worm (Ascariasis)

Intestinal worms (in this case, ascaris), which are not uncommon, are transferred mainly by eating unwashed produce (or produced washed with contaminated water).

These little beauties live inside your intestines, often without any side effects, until one day they get so abundant that they start to make you sleepy and sluggish and you take some de-worming medicine like Albendozol; or, you take some de-worming medicine as a regular precaution (advised every 6 months here in Bukavu). But, until you’ve killed them with medicine, it’s rare to see them come out alive.

My particular worm experience was special.

The day after a big HHH party and some heavy drinking, I sat down on the toilet, and feeling something funny, proceeded to watch as a long pink worm wriggled its way out.  And trust me, as uncomfortable as you may be reading this, it was way more uncomfortable experiencing it.

Not surprisingly, I freaked out.

“Katie, you have to come and see this,” I called into the kitchen.

“I don’t want to look at your poop, Jamie,” she replied, and continued prepping dinner.

“No, really.  Come and see this.”  It must have been the cold dread she heard in my voice that convinced her.

Katie wasn’t fazed, however, to see the angry 6 inch worm that had previously been living inside of me thrashing about in the toilet bowl.  She ran to the bedroom, untangled a wire hanger, fished the angry worm out of the toilet, and plopped it into a jar.  She then videotaped it and bestowed upon it the name of, “Peter the Worm”.  Don’t ask why.  Katie, when naming animals and insects, goes on pure instinct.

After the initial shock, we began to research what to do after one poops a worm.  After doing a quick Google, we found a helpful post entitled “OMG… I just pooped a worm”.

Apparently, I’m not the only one.

Everyone, meet Peter

Everyone, meet Peter

Rotten eggs anyone? (Giardiasis)

Giardia, or ‘beaver fever’ as it’s also know, can, in addition to its common symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting, give you frequent recurring burps that smell of rotten eggs.

My particular experience was void of the pooping and vomiting part, which was nice, but was however full of the most awful smelling burps, ever.  Like make-the-person-next-to-you-want-to-vomit bad.  Like, there’s a green cloud of noxious rotten egg gas surrounding my head.

While this may have been manageable had I been on my own (they go away after treatment or sufficient time), my symptoms started just before getting on a plane to Madagascar from Nairobi.  I don’t hesitate in saying that it was likely the worst plane ride for many a fellow passengers, and definitely me.

Giardia bug

Giardia bug

Acid Bugs

Acid bugs, aka “Nairobi flies”, are small crawling insects that look like ants with part of their bodies colored red.  They are not particularly large, scary looking or aggressive. But, it’s their unassuming presence that often gets people.

Acid bugs don’t bite; it’s only when they are squished that they excrete an acid that for most people will leave behind a painful acid rash. While we were working in Kinshasa, a colleague of Katie’s inadvertely brushed off an acid bug that was tickling his face, right under his eye.  Luckily none of the acid got in his eye, but he was left with what looked like a pretty shiner from a bar fight for several weeks after.

While fortunately neither Katie nor I have ever squished an acid bug we’ve seen several of them crawling around on our back porch.  It may be just a matter of time…

Acid Bug

Acid Bug


Katie and I took anti-malarial prophylaxis during our time in Kinshasa. Given the high number of mosquitoes, especially in our apartment (during one evening’s killing-spree we counted over 100), combined with the elevated risk that these mosquitoes were carriers of the parasite, it was worth it to us.

However, in Bukavu there are relatively few mosquitoes and the likelihood that they carry the malaria parasite is small.  So, we decided to stop taking the prophylaxis.

I got malaria a few weeks ago, and although it wasn’t as bad as some of the horror stories that I heard from other people when describing their first time, it certainly wasn’t pleasant.  I was sick for a few days with a headache, fever at times, stomach pain, and fatigue.  I started a 3 day regiment of medicine which quickly cleared everything up.

Looking on the bright side, I’ve heard that once you’ve had malaria, if ever you get it again, the symptoms aren’t as bad…

Mango Flies

Mango flies are bugs that burrow themselves into the cotton of clothes that are hung outside to dry.  Then once you then put on your freshly laundered clothing article, the mango fly moves onto you and lays its eggs underneath your skin without you knowing it.  If not treated the mango fly eggs will eventually hatch out of your skin and are an infection risk.

We’ve know people who have had mango fly eggs laid under their skin.  A non-ironed pair of underpants was the culprit…

Mango Fly

Mango Fly

If identified in time, mango fly eggs can be relatively easily removed surgically.  But prevention is easier, just iron your clothes before you wear them (which most everyone here does).

Doesn’t that make you appreciate laundry machines like never before?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Kaitlyn Hanley permalink
    April 7, 2014 2:19 pm

    jesus H. this was a tough post to read. but being the super pathology nerd that I am, i couldn’t look away. Greetings from Germany you guys! Hope all the worms, rashes and burps are all cleared up and you’re healthy again! Looking forward to the next time we get to hang 🙂

  2. Doug Macklin permalink
    April 8, 2014 4:41 am

    africa is not for me.

  3. ankahn permalink
    August 28, 2014 5:27 am

    I’m a Thai-American with some questions about Kinshasa. (I googled “Thai Kinshasa” and came across your blog.) My twitter is @andy_kahn and email is

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