Brazil Flora & Fauna News
RIO DE JANEIRO – Vampire fish, attracted by the odor of urine and feeding on human blood, are terrorizing swimmers in Northeastern Brazil, reported the Portuguese-language news site G1. Candiru fish, also known as ‘vampire fish,’ typical to the rivers of the Amazon Basin, enter the human body through the genital organ and require surgery to remove. This year, the species of fish have attacked four people swimming at beaches along the Tocantins River
Candiru ‘Vampire’ Fish Attack Human Genitals
The parasite easily confused with other fish, Candiru measure up to 12 centimeters (4.75 inches) in length. The vampire fish have been attacking swimmers in Cocoa Beach, in Imperatriz, Maranhao state. Urine attracts the fish, which enter the genital organ – of men or women – causing brutal pain and profuse bleeding. This past weekend, lifeguards had to rush a woman to the regional hospital for emergency surgery.
Doctor Valberto Cunha de Sousa told G1 that after the fish lodge inside the host’s genital organ, withdraw is possible only via a surgical procedure. The fish cause small cuts inside the host to release blood, which it feeds on.
Biologist Marcelo Francisco da Silva, from the State University of Maranhao, said that the Candiru is native to the Amazon Basin and is always present in the Tocantins River. According to the biologist, swimmers need not be afraid to swim in the river. They can take simple precautions to avoid becoming the next victim.
“Wearing a bikini bottom, for women, or a sunga (like a Speedo) for men, will prevent the fish from entering the genitals – it cannot tear the fabric to enter the urethra. In most cases where penetration occurs, the victim was peeing in the river, which attracts the parasite,” explained the biologist. The doctor had one easy piece of advice to avoid becoming a victim: “do not pee in the river!”