(BIVN) – Hilo is looking forward to hosting an international workshop on Rat Lungworm Disease, and local government officials are working to support the event.
The Hawaiʻi County Council Fiance Committee advanced a resolution on Wednesday that will provide $14,322 from the Department of Research and Development to the University of Hawai‘i to fund its International Workshop on Angiostrongylus and Angiostrongyliasis program. “Funds would be used to conduct educational outreach to researchers, clinicians, and the general public on the organisms that cause Rat Lung Worm Disease,” the committee agenda said.
“This is the sixth international workshop that has been held,” said Glenn Sako of Hawaiʻi County R&D. “It’s been held recently in China, Australia, the U.S. and Thailand, and is basically bringing together the international research to present the results and to further the research into this debilitating disease that is often misdiagnosed.”
“This conference is gonna be held on January 5th to the 8th at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel,” Sako said. “It is free and open to the public. They are expecting about 200 to 250 participants.”
On October 8, the Hawaiʻi Department of Health reported the seventh confirmed case of rat lungworm disease this year, contracted by a visitor to Hawai‘i Island. “The seventh individual was an adult resident of the U.S. mainland and was traveling in West Hawai‘i when they were infected with the parasite causing rat lungworm disease,” the health department said. “The individual became ill in late June and did not seek medical care until the end of July after reoccurring dizziness. They were hospitalized on the mainland for a short time for their symptoms. The investigation was not able to identify an exact source of infection. However, the individual reported eating a lot of fresh, local produce without washing first. They also grew a number of herbs on their lanai during their visit.”
The state explains:
Angiostrongyliasis, commonly known as rat lungworm disease, is caused by a parasitic roundworm and can have debilitating effects on an infected person’s brain and spinal cord. In Hawai‘i, most people become ill by accidentally ingesting a snail or slug infected with the parasite Angiostrongylus cantonensis (A. cantonensis). Symptoms vary widely between cases, and the most common ones include severe headaches and neck stiffness. The most serious cases experience neurological problems, severe pain and long-term disability.
According to Sako, the sickness has been having other impacts on island life, such as produce sales. “Locally, there has been some concern by the consumers about the leafy greens and the possibility that it may have the nematodes that cause rat lungworm disease,” Sako said. “Also, on the tourism industry.”
“We’re fortunate that this international workshop will be held here in Hilo, and we look forward to a lot of information coming forward from it,” sako said.
The resolution was given a positive recommendation by the Hawaiʻi County Council Finance Committee and next goes to the full council for its approval.