HONOLULU, Hawaii – Kona’s state representative Dr. Richard Creagn chaired his first House Committee on Agriculture hearing last Friday, and with the bang of a gavel helped advance a bill to combat the threat of rat lungworm disease in Hawaii.
The disease, caused by Angiostrongylus cantonensis – a parasitic nematode found in slugs and snails – can cause crippling chronic disabilities or even claim lives. There have been 70 reported cases of the disease in Hawaii from 2001 to 2014.
House Bill 474 appropriates funds to the University of Hawaii at Hilo, the Hawaii departments of health, land and natural resources, and agriculture for programs, studies, and activities related to rat lungworm disease.
Last year, a similar effort failed to pass the legislature.
The issue has not received the attention it deserves from government, Rep. Creagan said during the hearing.
“We had a dengue outbreak, nobody died,” Creagan said. “People are dying from this. We need to do something before it gets worse.”
“Its mostly on Hawaii Island,” the ag chair stated, “but it is spreading to the other islands. Something needs to be done. Its way past time.”
The bill must also pass through the House Committees on Higher Education and Finance. A companion bill, SB272, has also been introduced in the Senate.