Tuesday, May 1, 2007
7 News Investigations: Body Bugs Part II
It is the sort of story Hollywood likes: Bugs growing inside people's bodies. But, as 7's Patrick Fraser first reported three months ago, it's all too real, and Patrick has now learned it's spreading all across America -- and the thousands of people who have it, all have one thing in common: No one believes they have bugs, and no one is helping them. Here is Patrick's report.
WSVN -- They are troubling, terrifying and all too true.
Jose Jimenez: "She has a parasitic infestation, and she really has real bugs -- she has flies, ticks, nymphs. All sorts of strange bugs."
Kathy lives in South Florida and has bugs coming out of her body.
Sabina is from North Carolina -- bugs have infested her body.
Sabina: "They are in my lungs, my bones, my joints, my eyes, my ears. They are in everything now. They have invaded my body."
Dr. Greg Smith is a pediatrician from Georgia who has been infected.
Dr. Gregory Smith: "This is something very real and very odd going on."
Very odd, very real, very frightening.
Trisha Springstead: "We are looking at the next epidemic. The epidemic has hit, and it's bugs."
Patrick Fraser: "This infestation is also one more thing: Very common. Since we first reported on this two months ago, I have gotten emails heard from hundreds of people who have been infected with bugs. We have learned of tens of thousands more who have various things infesting their body. We have also learned something else -- almost no one believes them."
Trisha Springstead: "It is scary. I have been through hell, I've been through hell."
All of these people have been through hell and are trying to convince people the bugs are real.
Don't believe it? Watch Kathy scrape her skin, then go straight to a microscope and show it to us.
Patrick Fraser: "There's no doubt what that is: it's a bug."
And the bugs are not always dead or in pieces -- this came out of Kathy's skin, a tiny, living organism.
Jose Jimenez: "You can see it there how it's moving. When it's all done it just retracts right back into the cocoon, and, again, it's just a piece of dirt if you didn't know any better."
Living like this -- your body filled with sores from things coming out of your body -- is horrible.
This is Sabina six months ago. She remembers when people looked at her and smiled. Then her body became infected with bugs.
Sabina: "And people look at you not for, 'She's cute,' but, 'Oh, my God, look at that freak.' It really takes a toll on you."
With no cure in sight, Sabina thought she had the only solution.
Sabina: "It absolutely made me suicidal. Yeah, everybody thought I was crazy, and I had things coming out of my body, begin to dig into my eyeball."
And when Dr. Smith first got infected, he was diagnosed like many other people -- examined by a doctor he had worked with for 25 years, who immediately assumed Dr. Smith had lost his mind.
Dr. Gregory Smith: "The psychiatrist thought this was a bizarre story but over the next couple of months has become convinced I am no more crazy than I used to be, and that I am not delusional."
After our story aired, the Miami-Dade Health Department investigated Kathy's case. They came to her home, took samples and sent her to their dermatologist at Jackson -- who, as Jose put it, told him his wife was crazy.
Jose Jimenez: "He said, 'Jose, even if I found a bug, or a bug leg in her debris, I would not believe it. Even if I saw it with my own eyes, I wouldn't believe it because it's impossible.'"
Impossible or incomprehensible?
After Dr. Smith got infected, he got so ill he had to quit practicing medicine.
Focused on trying to help people with the same thing, he began by contacting the Centers For Disease Control.
Dr. Gregory Smith: "I just got blown off and ignored."
And when we spoke to the Miami-Dade Health Department and asked about their diagnosis for Kathy, we were told they couldn't tell us. They could only tell Kathy. She is still waiting for a call.
Patrick Fraser: "Never heard a word from them?"
Jose Jimenez: "Correct."
Thousands of people ignored, thousands of people suffering from the same sort of mysterious illness. Some are told it's Morgellon's -- a disease where fibers come out of your body.
Others are told its scabies or shingles, but most are told by their doctors, "You are delusional."
Dr. Gregory Smith: "They are not admitting it because they don't know what to do with it. They don't know how to treat it."
Dr. Smith says the refusal to admit tens of thousands of people are being infected reminds him of what the medical community did when another new disease popped up years ago.
Dr. Gregory Smith: "And the band is still playing on just like it did when they allowed the AIDS epidemic to spread before really starting to take definitive measures and recognizing it."
A disease that is very real.
Dr. Gregory Smith: "They were hurting me. I couldn't sleep for days. It was horrible."
A disease that we are finding is not uncommon, but, most disturbing, no one is trying to find a cure.
Kathy Jimenez: "Those are not delusions, those are real bugs. I can be crazy, but I have bugs."