Potentially dangerous flatworm emerges in Cape Coral

CAPE CORAL, Fla. It could be deadly, or it could be much ado about nothing.

The New Guinea flatworm has been spotted in Cape Coral and elsewhere in Southwest Florida, and some local officials are warning residents about the parasite.

But it’s not clear whether it really poses a threat.

The invasive flatworm has been found in Cape Coral before, in 2015, and it’s appeared in Miami and Clewiston as well.

Roy Beckford, who studies these flatworns at the University of Florida, doesn’t believe there’s a reason to worry.

“We have not associated any disease potential with the New Guinea flatworms that we have seen in Florida so far,” he said.

Backford said many people mistakenly send him samples of native flatworms, which pose no danger to humans or pets.

The native flatworm has a more spherical head and is dark in color, while the New Guinea flatworm has a distinct line down the dorsal side of its back, Beckford said.

“If somebody’s feeling sick and they feel they had some kind of contact with the New Guinea flatworm, my suggestion is go see your doctor. These things can be taken care of pretty easily,” he said.

Reporter:Taylor Bisacky