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Big Island infant contracts rat lungworm disease


    A microscopic image of the rat lungworm parasite.

State Department of Health officials today confirmed an additional case of rat lungworm disease in an infant from the Puna district of Hawaii island.

It is the 10th laboratory-confirmed case of rat lungworm disease contracted on Hawaii island this year, bringing the statewide total to 17 for the year.

Following an investigation, the department learned that the infant likely became infected after accidentally consuming a slug or snail, officials said.

“This is an extremely unfortunate incident, with the infant currently hospitalized and receiving care,” Aaron Ueno, Hawaii island district health officer, said in a news release. “While the department is unable to provide specific information on this individual case, we can take this time to remind parents and caregivers about the importance of preventing infants and young children from putting slugs, snails or other items in their mouths. We know that slugs, snails, and rats in all counties carry the parasite that can cause rat lungworm disease, so watching over young children is especially important.”

The department recommends parents and caregivers of children take the following precautions:

>> Watch infants, toddlers, and children carefully while they are playing and make sure they are not picking up slugs, snails, or other objects from the ground and putting them into their mouths.

>> Help children properly wash their hands after playing using running water and soap.

>> When consuming food and drinks, close and seal containers when not in use to prevent slugs and snails from crawling inside, especially when left on or near the ground.

More tips are available at

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