HILO, Hawaii – 11 of the 13 candidates running for Hawaii County Mayor discussed rat lungworm disease during a political forum in Hilo on July 27.
Rat lungworm disease is a concern on Hawaii Island. The sickness is caused by a nematode; a roundworm parasite called Angiostrongylus cantonensis. The state says the parasitic nematode can be passed from the feces of infected rodents to snails, slugs and certain other animals, which become intermediate hosts for the parasite. Humans can become infected when they consume infected raw or undercooked intermediate hosts. Although some people who become infected don’t show any symptoms, others can be stricken with severe headaches, stiffness of the neck, tingling or painful feelings in the skin or extremities, low-grade fever, nausea, and vomiting. Temporary paralysis of the face and light sensitivity can also occur. The infection is also known to cause a rare type of meningitis (eosinophilic meningitis).
Although much of the responsibility for countering rat lungworm disease lies with the State Department of Health, the next mayor may be able to play an important supporting role.
The July 27 forum was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Hawaii County and the American Association of University Women – Hilo. Sherry Bracken served as moderator.