Comedic legend Betty White, currently starring in the TVLand sitcom Hot in Cleveland, received a diagnosis of hookworm infection after complaining of discomfort during a recent taping of the show.
“I had some stomach pains and was running a fever,” said White, during a break from rehearsal. The actress portrays Elke Ostrovsky, owner of a house shared by 40-something best friends Melanie (Valerie Bertinelli), Joy (Jane Leeves) and Victoria (Wendie Malick). “I’m usually healthy as a hog,” White added.
The diagnosis caught White by surprise. “I turned to my doctor and said ‘You’ve got to be pulling my leg. Are you sure you’re not a vet?’ My dogs get hookworm. Now this is just what I need — how much do you want to bet my co-stars start referring to me as ‘that old bitch?’” joked the tart-tongued White.
“You can’t get hookworm from petting your dog,” said Dr. Morris Fine of Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, MA. “Miss White probably came in contact with soil or grass that contained hookworm larvae or eggs,” he added. “That shows she cleans up after her pets. I’m not surprised, I know she’s an animal lover.”
White’s television career began in the 1950s after success as a radio singer and actress. One of television’s first female producers, White’s first show, Life With Elizabeth, aired from 1952-1955. Frequent guest appearances on variety and game shows established White’s decades-long popularity. Her role as man-chaser and ‘Happy Homemaker’ Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show earned the actress two Emmy nominations and one win. In the 80’s and early 90s, she played lovable dullard Rose Nylund on the hit TV series The Golden Girls, which garnered her several more Emmy nominations and wins.
Not surprisingly, White was back at work after one day’s rest.
“She’s healthier than all of us put together,” said co-star Wendie Malick. “She’s a work-horse of a woman. I really admire her.”
Treatment for hookworm disease generally involves a round of medication lasting one to three days. Iron supplements are often prescribed, as anemia sometimes occurs as a result of the condition.
“I’m just glad that it wasn’t something worse,” remarked White. “Can you imagine if it had been fleas, instead?!”