It took just one bite from a mosquito for the South American man to be infected with one of the most frightening and crippling tropical diseases.
Identified as Raimundo, the man was bitten by the bug 20 years ago and subsequently infected with Lymphatic filariasis, a parasitic infection better known as Elephantiasis.
According to Daily Mail, Raimundo has been battling the infection ever since, and watched as his left leg swelled and became elephant-like, almost paralyzing him as documented in tonight’s episode of River Monsters on Animal Planet.
The disease targets the body’s lymphatic system as the larvae reproduce and mature over a period of one year.
The infection is typically characterized by extreme swelling of limbs or genitals, though the majority of people who are infected by the parasite do not develop any symptoms.
However, the worms can damage kidneys and lymph nodes even if a person does not exhibit external symptoms.
It is considered a ‘neglected tropical disease’.
Raimundo is currently undergoing treatment in Sao Jose Rio Preto.
The clinic that is treating him – the first time he has sought help for the infection – has managed to drastically reduce the size of the swelling in a matter of weeks.
Though he still has a long way to go.
Doctors at Cunica Godoy initially good not wrap their arms around one part of Raimundo’s leg due to the sheer size of the swelling.
As the host of the show, Jeremy Wade, explains, once you get elephantiasis, it is very difficult to get under control.
‘Perhaps this is the one I find most frightening because once you’ve got Elephantiasis it’s a life sentence,’ he said.
The infection is found in Africa, Central and South America, South Asia, and the Pacific Islands
Doctors can use anthelmintic drugs will expel the parasitic worms from the patient’s body.
However in cases like that of Raimundo, who did not immediately seek treatment, it can be a life-long battle.
In terms of prevention, although there is a greater risk for long-term travelers or humanitarian workers, all tourists are encouraged to use insect repellent containing DEET, or diethyltoluamide, the most common kind of insect repellent.
Elephantiasis often leaves sufferers incapacitated as their painful and swollen limbs are incredibly difficult to move.
Because it is primarily found in third world countries, it leaves many with the condition struggling to work, and can be fatal.
This episode of River Monsters will air tonight on Animal Planet at 10PM.