PAHOA, Hawaii – As the Hawaii Department of Health investigates a cluster of locally-acquired cases of dengue fever on the Big Island, residents of Puna maintain their deep concern over rat lungworm disease, or RLW.
The community joined State Senator Russell Ruderman in Pahoa for a talk story on Wednesday night, where everyone expressed hope that the state will fund further research on RLW, known to scientists as angiostrongylus cantonensis. The Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy is currently conducting a number of important studies on the disease.
Puna is considered ground zero in Hawaii for the sickness, which comes from a parasitic nematode that is transferred to humans by slugs or flatworms if their slime is ingested, for example if the slime contaminates fruit or vegetables before they are eaten.
MORE: Sen. Ruderman talk story (Nov. 4 in Pahoa)
Recently, Big Island Video News received an email from Puna resident Sara Steiner concerning the rat lungworm issue. It contained the following message to state and county officials (and news media).
October 27, 2015
Dear Gov. Ige, Mayor Kenoi, Department of Health, Hilo Medical Center, legislators and news editors:
I have a good friend who started getting really bad headaches a month or more ago, and had to go to the emergency room because of the severity and she was treated (for something?) and sent home. This happened several more times. This woman is a registered nurse, she lives in Kapoho and is a vegan, but she has only lived here a few years. Finally, on the last visit, they decided to check her for rat lung. Bingo! Except for she suffered excruciating pain unnecessarily for that prior last month when she should have been checked on her first visit, and been treated since then.
I am under the impression from talking to various people; the UH rat lung study guys who were sitting outside Clinical Labs in Pahoa for the last few months collecting blood samples trying to figure out what percentage of the population has or had rat lung, to a trusted friend who says when you walk into the State Department of Health office here in Hilo, you find all sorts of propaganda about malaria and other diseases in other countries, but nothing about rat lung in Puna. Maybe they don’t want to scare the tourists? DOH told me the numbers are too low for it to be an epidemic, I call bull, when you compare the numbers of people in Puna and rat lung sufferers it is epidemic.
When I called the DOH to ask about their rat lung policy they said the Emergency Room doctors have such a high turnover rate, and also they are not from Hawaii and they just don’t know about rat lung. Can you believe that??? I called the hospital public relations number, because I couldn’t find a number for the emergency room physicians. A great nurse named Steve called me back, we talked for quite awhile, and he has promised me he will speak to the emergency room board of directors about educating the emergency room doctors that when someone comes in from Puna with all the classic symptoms of rat lung that the hospital immediately questions them and then tests them for it. You don’t just give them some pain killers and send them home, and then let them come back 3 or 4 times before you do anything proactive. Somehow it gets turned around, and we the suffering residents are called the lame ones for living is substandard conditions and not washing our food.
It’s time for the State and County of Hawaii to come out of the closet and admit there is a serious problem in Puna with rat lung. Don’t just leave it to UH and us residents. It is also time for the State and County of Hawaii to take responsibility for all the substandard subdivisions they permitted all over this island with no running water. They were so busy laughing and making speculative millions they forgot that us poorer human beings have been buying and living here for decades.
The State and County need to provide water spigots in every catchment subdivision NOW! You have the pipes running on the highways and fire hydrants, you can have water spigots. There are myriads of people who live in the bushes and try and catch water in whatever they can. They may be poor vets or other families barely surviving. It’s too hard to expect people to haul enough water to be super hygienic. Many have no vehicles, and can’t carry water for miles and miles.
It is now time for the State and County of Hawaii to start rectifying the wrongs still being perpetrated daily. Perhaps you can go after these individuals who knowingly made millions perpetrating and permitting substandard subdivisions. We know who they are, they are all Hawaii government officials, attorneys, judges, planners, council reps, union reps, big corporations and realtors involved in Hawaii planning from statehood on. Of course many of them are dead now, but I think the current government is absolutely responsible for the wrongs of its’ past members actions when they violate civil rights. Read Land and Power in Hawaii! Whatever your greedy reasons for allowing these subdivisions on the Big Island were and are, you are now on notice that you need to be responsible for your actions, and begin remedying immediately!
P.O. Box 2011
Pahoa, Hawaii 96778