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First case of rat lungworm since 2010 reported on Oahu

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    Snails and slugs can become infected by rat lungworm disease and pass it on to humans. The first case of the disease on Oahu since 2010 was confirmed Tuesday.


    The rat lungworm parasite. The first case of the disease on Oahu since 2010 was confirmed Tuesday.

An adult is hospitalized with rat lungworm disease on Oahu, the first case of the disease reported on the island since 2010, the Health Department announced today.

Health officials confirmed the case late Tuesday. The Oahu resident had come down with symptoms consistent with rat lungworm disease in July. It is the 16th case so far this year in the state, along with cases on Hawaii island and Maui.

The news release did not specify where the patient lived, but said that vector control staff have surveyed for slug, snail and rat activity in East Oahu and found no evidence of slugs or semi-slugs nearby.

“The source of the individual’s infection is still unknown at this time,” but the investigation is continuing, the department said in the release.

“This is a serious disease that can be acquired on any of our islands because slugs and snails throughout the state carry the parasite responsible for the illness,” said Keith Kawaoka, deputy director of Environmental Health. “This is a grim reminder that we all need to take precautions when working in our gardens and on farms, and eliminate slugs, snails and rats from our communities to reduce the risks posed by this parasitic disease.”

Health officials urged the public to carefully inspect and wash all produce, especially leafy greens, under running water in order to remove any tiny snails or slugs. They also advise residents to eliminate slugs, snails and rats around their homes and gardens.

A person can contract rat lungworm disease by eating raw or undercooked slugs, snails and other creatures infected with a parasite known as Angiostrongylus cantonensis. Common symptoms include severe headaches and neck stiffness. The disease can cause neurological problems and severe disability.

More information is available here.

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