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Flesh-eating Maggots Found in UK Woman's Ear [VIDEO]

Jul 18, 2013 02:10 PM EDT

A British woman took home and unexpected souvenir from a recent trip to Peru: eight flesh-eating maggots stowed away in her ear canal.

Rochelle Harris, 27, returned from holiday in the South American country with mysterious headaches, a sharp pain in her face and an inexplicable pool of fluid on her pillow when she woke up one morning.

Harris described what she felt as an "excruciating, stabbing pain that never relented."

Harris went to a general physician, who referred her to an ear, nose and throat specialist, suspecting an ear infection.

But the stretching sound that Harris kept hearing from inside her own head did not convince her she merely had an ear infection.

The specialist confirmed the grim truth

"Mum asked her 'Can you see what it is?' and the doctor said 'If you don't mind I'd prefer to speak to the registrar before I tell you anything,'" Harris said, according to Sky News.

"My mum said 'Please tell us' and that's when the doctor said 'You've got maggots in your ear'. I burst into tears instantly."

As it turned out, a New World screwworm fly had laid eggs inside her ear. When the eggs hatched into maggots, they began eating through Harris' ear canal, which was the source of much of her pain, as well as the scratching sound she kept hearing. The maggots ate a 12 millimeter hole though Harris' ear canal.

Fortunately, no damage was done to her ear drum, blood vessels or facial nerve.

New World screwworm flies (Cochliomyia hominivorax), are a livestock pest that were eradicated from the United Stated about half a century ago, but they still thrive in Central and South America, LiveScience reported.

While on a jungle trek in Peru, Harris apparently walked into a swarm of the flies, and one, she said, momentarily got into her ear. But after she shooed it away, she did not think anything more of it.

But the fly was in her ear long enough to lay eggs, which developed into what the surgeons who removed them called a "wriggling mass of maggots," the Daily Mail reported.

Harris' ordeal was featured on a recent episode of a Discovery Channel documentary called "Bugs, Bites And Parasites."

Harris said that after the ordeal was over, she was no longer as generally squeamish about bugs.

"How can you be when they've been inside your head?"

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