January 10, 2009 – Seaview, Hawaii
VIDEO by David Corrigan
Puna residents gathered in Seaview to address the scare over the painful parasites that could be contracted from eating raw vegetables.
Three Big Island residents have been hospitalized in recent weeks due rat lungworm disease. One resident, Silka Strauch, is reportedly in a coma from the illness.
The disease is caused by microscopic parasitic worms, known to scientists as Angiostrongylus cantonensis, which normally live out their lifecycle between rat feces and snails or slugs. The small worm can enter the human body if a snail or slug carrying the parasite is ingested.
It is suspected that the victims of rat lungworm disease consumed poorly washed raw vegetables that had small snails or slugs on them. Although worms that enter the human body usually die within a few weeks, it is possible for the parasites to migrate into the cerebral fluid, causing a form of meningitis.
Victims often report severe pain and sometimes paralysis or blindness. There is no official cure for the disease, and hospitals can only treat the painful symptoms.
Although the rat lungworm disease is not new to the Hawaii islands, the recent reports have residents, especially those in the Puna areas of Kehena and Seaview, worried about contracting the parasite.
Vicitms have also reported being misdiagnosed by physicians. Friends and family of Strauch say that she was not admitted to the Hilo Medical Center on three separate occasions, before finally being admitted on December 8.