(BIVN) – The Green Lake Rat Lungworm Awareness Concert was held on Saturday in Puna.
Attendees were entertained with music from headliner Lito Arkangel, as well as Cosmorchestra, Kunzwanana Marimba Ensemble, Uncle’s ‘Awa Band, hula halau and other performers. There were also educational speeches, informational exhibits, food and craft booths.
Shannon “Smiley” Burrows, caretaker of the Green Mountain land near Kapoho, organized the event in hopes of raising awareness about the disease. Rat lungworm is caused by the parasitic nematode, Angiostrongylus cantonensis, passed from the feces of rats to intermediate hosts like snails and slugs. The disease can be passed to humans if they ingest the intermediate hosts, or their slime, carrying the nematode.
According to the Hawaii Department of Health:
This infection can cause a rare type of meningitis (eosinophilic meningitis). Some infected people don’t have any symptoms or only have mild symptoms; in some other infected people the symptoms can be much more severe. When symptoms are present, they can include severe headache and stiffness of the neck, tingling or painful feelings in the skin or extremities, low-grade fever, nausea, and vomiting. Sometimes, a temporary paralysis of the face may also be present, as well as light sensitivity. The symptoms usually start 1 to 3 weeks after exposure to the parasite, but have been known to range anywhere from 1 day to as long as 6 weeks after exposure. Although it varies from case to case, the symptoms usually last between 2–8 weeks; symptoms have been reported to last for longer periods of time.
Burrows says her son, Phoenix, was infected with rat lungworm when he contracted it from water in the family’s catchment system. Although Phoenix is doing well these days, Burrows says he was severely sick for about a year. Burrows has been active in raising awareness and educating people about the disease ever since.
The event was co-sponsored by a contingency relief fund grant from Puna’s County Councilwoman Eileen O’Hara and the environmental nonprofit Malama O Puna.