Parasite that Attacks the Brain Known as "Rat Lungworm" Spreads Across Hawaii
Parasite that Attacks the Brain Known as "Rat Lungworm" Spreads Across Hawaii
Rat Lungworm Meeting in Hāna Draws Standing Room Only Crowd
13 April, 2017, 02:25
While native slugs and snails may be carriers around 25 percent of the time, the invasive semi-slug has a carriage rate of around 70 to 80 percent of the time, The Maui News reported. When the infected rats excrete the worm larvae through their feces, it will then be eaten up by land crabs, slugs, lizards, snails, and freshwater shrimp. It is a parasitic nematode (Angiostrongylus cantonensis) that begins its life as an infection in the brains and blood of rats.
In extremely rare cases, the disease can lead to death but once on the brain it can cause symptoms similar to meningitis.
The disease, which affects the brain and spinal cord, is caused by a parasite.
Apparently, Hawaii is not the most relaxed area in the US. Three have been established in while a seventh was reported by a woman from Maui who says she caught the disease on the Big Island, Dr. Lorrin Pang of the Maui District Health Office says.
State epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park says she can not say exactly how many cases of rat lungworm there are until the Department of Health completes its investigation and gets a full assessment.
"They're just reporting numbers being discharged from hospitals, so they're missing all the other cases where people might go into a clinic and not a hospital", said Susan Jarvi, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
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Hawaii typically sees reports of 1-9 cases of rat lungworm each year.
Rat lungworms penetrating and infecting people's brain in Hawaii made officials cower because the incidents are becoming frequent. People can become infected from snails and slugs.
A bill is now making its way through the legislature that would fund programs to study, prevent, and hopefully eradicate the disease. That includes avoiding any contact with raw slugs and snails, including their slime; cooking them thoroughly before we eat them (if that's your bag); and washing and boiling any raw food, like salads, that may have been contaminated by them. He said that the worm could stay in the body for months, and that could result in immune system reactions where affected patients may get scars, or suffer nervous system damage, making the infection a very painful one.
Additionally, the infection may cause the patient to suffer from meningitis. This parasitic worm can be found in Southeast Asia and in the Pacific Islands. Humans can contract it by eating the infected snail or slug, or even just its residue on tainted, unwashed vegetables, primarily leafy produce like lettuce.
A 2004 World Health Organisation report warned that "most new infections seem to be caused by pathogens already present in the environment, which have been brought out of obscurity, or given selective advantage, by changing ecological or social conditions".
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