Two newlyweds from California are among the latest victims of the rat lungworm disease that is affecting Hawaii.
Ben Manilla, 64, and his wife, Eliza Lape, 57, believe they contracted the disease during their two-week honeymoon in the Hana area of Maui early this year, KGMB-TV reported.
The disease is a condition in which parasitic worm larvae infect people’s brains. The disease is passed to humans through unwashed produce or contaminated animals such as freshwater shrimp, land crab, snails and slugs. It can be life-threatening.
Lape said she started experiencing symptoms after the couple returned home to San Francisco.
“My symptoms started growing to feeling like somebody was taking a hot knife and just stabbing me in different parts of my body,” Lape said.
Manilla’s symptoms manifested soon after. Manilla spent a month in intensive care and is still in the hospital undergoing rehabilitation. He’s already had several operations, two cases of pneumonia, a blood clot and kidney complications, he said.
The Hawaii Department of Health has confirmed six cases of rat lungworm disease tied to Maui this year. There are three other cases on Hawaii island, and DOH officials are investigating four possible cases.
The numbers are based on information gathered from emergency rooms and other hospital visits, and experts fear the problem might be under-reported.
“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.
Lape and Manilla said they would have stayed away from the area if they had been better informed.
“Had we known we were walking into this kind of environment, we would have had a completely different attitude,” Lape said. “It really does disrupt and destroy people’s lives.”