Leeches Attack Family of Six - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

5/30/05-Tyler

Leeches Attack Family of Six

Two weekends ago, Mary Zuniga took her five young children to the swimming area of Lake Tyler East, while she went fishing nearby.

Zuniga said. "And as I walked out, I could see that my legs were covered in hundreds of little, slimy leeches. I started pulling them out. As I pulled them out, it seemed like they were in my skin, so I got scared and I started scraping them off."

Her 10-year-old son did the same.

"I was trying to break them and tear them off," Arthur Palacios said.

Not a good idea, says ETMC emergency room doctor Bill Moore.

He says, "if you pull them out suddenly, you'll leave the jaws of the leech embedded in your skin,"

That can lead to infection, which requires a shot at the doctor's office.

"Alexis and Charisma came up with big, big bumps on their body with puss, and they were growing and growing," Zuniga said. "And they had a fever."

Doctors say leeches, which are even used in medical treatment, are usually not harmful to humans, if you remove them properly.

"Most people would say to slowly coax them off the skin," Dr. Moore said. "Maybe use a little alcohol or a little vinegar."

Although experts say you'll hardly ever have to worry about the blood-sucking creature.

"In the 23 years that I've been working with this agency, this is the first time that I've heard anybody actually have a leech attach to their body," Dr. Richard Ott, Inland Fisheries Biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife, said.

Leeches usually hide in vegetation. And scientists say they normally don't attach to humans, but rather, turtles, fish, and other water fowl.

Still, Zuniga and her kids say they're staying away from the lake for now.

If you do find a leech attached to your skin, and you don't have alcohol or vinegar readily available to pour onto the area, you can see a doctor to get the leech removed safely.

Julie Tam, reporting. jtam@kltv.com

 

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