That annoying sound heard in Rochelle Harris’ ears was actually flesh eating worms. The British tourist returned from Peru earlier this year and started experiencing headaches, unexplained discharge from one ear, and shooting pains down the side of her face.
Those symptoms, plus the bizarre scratching sounds she continued hearing, prompted Harris to visit a doctor soon after her return to England. Doctor’s dismissed Harris after believing the symptoms she was experiencing were just from an ear infection. It wasn’t until specialists took a look to discover that Harris actually had flesh eating worms living inside of her ear.
The screwworm fly was, after many years of eradication efforts, eliminated from the United States in 1959 by a program that introduced sterile males into the population. The fly, however, continues to plague livestock in parts of Central and South America
The worms that Harris was hosting were the larvae of the New World screwworm fly. The fly is a notorious livestock pest that also seeks out pets, zoo animals, and occasionally humans as hosts. A pregnant female screwworm fly seeks an open wound on the skin of a warm-blooded animal to lay her eggs. Within 24 hours, the eggs hatch into tiny larvae that feed on living tissue and bodily fluids, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Harris was apparently infected after a swarm of flies pestered her while hiking in Peru; one flew into her ear, but after she shooed the insect away, she thought nothing more of it. Surgeons succeeded in removing what they called a “writhing mass of maggots” from Harris’ ear. Though a tiny hole had been chewed into her ear canal, Harris suffered no serious damage from her ordeal.
Although Harris had flesh eating worms crawling inside of her ear, she now has a different outlook on bugs. “I’m no longer as squeamish as I was about bugs,” Harris told the Daily Mail. “How can you be when they’ve been inside your head?”