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Photo courtesy University of Hawaii at Manoa Snails, rats and slugs can transmit the rat lungworm parasite.
KAILUA-KONA — The state Department of Health reported Friday two cases of rat lungworm disease on Hawaii Island, including one case in a West Hawaii adult.
That adult, who became ill in August with what was confirmed “a mild case of rat lungworm disease,” has since recovered, although the department couldn’t identify a “definitive source of infection,” according to the department’s announcement.
A more recent case involves an East Hawaii toddler who became ill in October and was hospitalized. The illness was confirmed after a second round of testing, the first of which was negative for rat lungworm disease. The toddler, the department said, has been transferred to Oahu for further case management and disease investigators are looking to learn more about that patient and a possible infection source.
Together, the two cases mark the fourth and fifth people from Hawaii Island to become ill with angiostrongyliasis this year, bringing this year’s statewide total to seven
“With the rainy season in full swing, we may expect to see more slugs and snails around our homes and gardens,” said DOH Director Dr. Bruce Anderson. “We can reduce the risk of rat lungworm disease by taking precautions to safely eliminate rats, slugs and snails in our communities. Keeping our young children away from these harmful vectors as well as thoroughly washing all produce before consuming it is crucial.”
In their release, the Department of Health offered the following recommendations to prevent rat lungworm disease:
- Control snail, slug, and rat populations around homes, gardens and farms. Get rid of these vectors safely by clearing debris where they might live, and also using traps and baits. Always wear gloves for safety when working outdoors.
- 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 clean, running water to remove any tiny slugs or snails. Pay close attention to leafy greens.
For more information about rat lungworm disease and how to prevent its spread, visit:
- DOH website: http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/disease_listing/rat-lungworm-angiostrongyliasis/
- HDOA website: http://hdoa.hawaii.gov/blog/main/rat-lungworm-information/
- CTAHR website: http://manoa.hawaii.edu/ctahr/farmfoodsafety/rat-lungworm/
- CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/angiostrongylus/index.html
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 Hawaii, 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.
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