"Myiasis" is the medical term for a maggot (fly larva) infestation of a living body. In this case, the patient was a 5-year-old boy treated by U.S. Air Force surgeons in a rural area of the Republic of Honduras. "The respiratory pore of a late-stage larva of the human botfly (Dermatobia hominis) was located in the anterior orbit," says the article abstract. "The larva was gently removed under general anesthesia through a small incision in the conjunctiva." The patient was apparently none the worse for wear in the aftermath.
Of botflies and blowflies
It would appear that the article itself was not consulted when this email tale was composed. Neither "bad dust" nor excessive eye rubbing were cited as causes of the infestation in the 5-year-old patient. According to entomologists, the human botfly lays its eggs on the bodies of other insects (such as mosquitoes), which then transfer the eggs to animal or human hosts by direct contact. When a botfly egg hatches, the larva burrows into the host's skin head-first and begins feeding.
This nasty creature is found mainly in Central and South America, but there are other species of flies known to responsible for cases of myiasis in North America, mainly blowflies. According to an epidemiological study conducted in 2000, most instances of myiasis acquired in the United States are the result of blowflies laying their eggs in pre-existing wounds.
None of which is quite as terrifying as the claim that any one of us could end up with a worm in our eye simply by being exposed to too much dust, which helps explain why the true facts of the case aren't circulating with the photos. In folklore, the story's the thing - accuracy takes a back seat to emotional impact, or, as folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand succinctly puts it, "The truth never stands in the way of a good story."