(BIVN) – The first confirmed case of rat lungworm disease in the state of 2018 has been found in an adult resident of West Hawaii, the Hawaii Department of Health reported on Friday.
The individual became seriously ill earlier this month and is being treated at a hospital, the state says. A laboratory detected the rat lungworm parasite in the individual’s spinal fluid.
State health officials conducted a detailed investigation of the case and are “unable to determine the exact source of the infection.”
“This is a reminder for everyone to take precautions and control snail, slug, and rat populations in and around properties, and especially home and school gardens and farms,” said Aaron Ueno, Hawaii District Health Office administrator. “We know that slugs, snails, and rats in all counties carry the parasite that can cause rat lungworm disease, and rain with wet conditions often brings more of these garden pests.”
In 2017, there were 17 laboratory-confirmed cases of rat lungworm disease statewide.
The DOH media release states:
Rat lungworm disease (angiostrongyliasis) can have debilitating effects on an infected person’s brain and spinal cord. The disease is endemic to Hawaii and is contracted when a person becomes infected with the parasite Angiostongylus cantonensis. In Hawaii, this occurs when a person accidentally consumes raw or undercooked infected slugs or snails. The most common symptoms include severe headaches and neck stiffness, but symptoms may vary widely among cases. The most serious cases experience neurological problems, pain, and severe disability.
The state is urging the public to take the following precautions to prevent rat lungworm disease:
- Inspect, wash and store produce in sealed containers, regardless of whether it came from a local retailer, farmer’s market, or backyard garden.
- Wash All fruits and vegetables under running water, especially leafy greens, to remove any tiny slugs or snails.
- Control snail, slug, and rat populations. Eliminate slugs, snails, and rats around properties, and especially around home gardens and farms.